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Jussie Smollett freed from jail pending appeal, court orders

The "Empire" actor was sentenced to 150 days in jail last week after he was convicted of lying about a hate crime in a case that roiled Chicago.

“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett was ordered released from jail Wednesday after a court agreed to stay the sentence a judge handed down last week, according to court documents.

Smollett was sentenced to 150 days in jail and probation after he was convicted of falsely reporting to police that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in 2019.

A court granted a motion Wednesday that he be allowed to be freed on bond pending an appeal.

The motion asked that the sentence be stayed, or put on hold.

Smollett walked out of jail around 8 p.m. local time, wearing a mask. He got into a waiting vehicle and did not answer any questions.

Smollett’s attorneys said last week they planned an appeal, but the judge at the sentencing denied their requests to stay the sentence.A jury convicted Smollett in December of five counts of felony disorderly conduct.

Smollett, who is Black and gay, claimed that he was brutally assaulted in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood early Jan. 29, 2019.

Authorities said he orchestrated a phony assault. Smollett has denied that and said he is innocent.

Cook County Circuit Judge James Linn excoriated Smollett at sentencing last Thursday and said he fabricated the hate crime to gain attention.

“You’re just a charlatan pretending to be a victim of a hate crime,” Linn said at sentencing.

Smollett had claimed that two men punched and kicked him, used racist and homophobic slurs, threw a chemical in his face and wrapped a noose around his neck.

Authorities said he recruited two brothers who worked on the set of "Empire" to stage the attack.

The brothers are not criminally charged in the case, and their attorney said last week that they "regret their role in the case and hope that the sentence today brings closure to the affected people of Chicago."

Linn last week sentenced Smollett to 30 months’ probation, including 150 days in jail. He was also ordered to pay around $120,100 in restitution to the city of Chicago, and he was fined $25,000.

Smollett’s attorney, Nenye Uche, said after the actor left jail Wednesday that the process has been unconstitutional.

Smollett was arrested and indicted in 2019, but charges were dropped in a deal that involved community service and forfeiture of a $10,000 bond. A special prosecutor was appointed, and Smollett was indicted in 2020, which led to the conviction and sentence.

“In this country, you cannot punish a person twice,” Uche told reporters.

Smollett’s attorneys plan to appeal the conviction and criminal case.

They argued for the stay of the jail sentence by saying Smollett would be likely serve the 150 days of jail time as the appeals are pending.