Embattled actor Jussie Smollett was sentenced to 150 days in jail and 30 months' probation Thursday for falsely reporting to police that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in 2019.
"You're just a charlatan pretending to be a victim of a hate crime," Cook County Circuit Judge James Linn told Smollett while announcing the sentence in Chicago.
Smollett responded by repeating, "I am not suicidal!" He said he was innocent and that "if anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it to myself," referring to jail.
Smollett, 39, the former star of "Empire," was found guilty by a Chicago jury in December of five counts of felony disorderly conduct. He was found not guilty of the sixth charge, aggravated battery.
The charges stemmed from a January 2019 report in which Smollett, who is Black and gay, alleged that he had been brutally assaulted in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood.
He said two men punched and kicked him, used racist and homophobic slurs, threw a chemical in his face and wrapped a noose around his neck.
The police investigation led to the arrests of Olabingo Osundairo and his brother Abimbola, who worked on the set of "Empire."
They were eventually released, and Smollett was arrested Feb. 21, 2019, after authorities accused him of recruiting the brothers to stage the attack.
Police said at the time that Smollett orchestrated the phony incident to advance his career, a claim he denies.
Linn excoriated Smollett at Thursday’s sentencing, saying he fabricated the tale for the attention. Linn said the false claim hurt genuine victims of hate crimes and that Smollett tried to exploit the real past and current injustices in the U.S.
"You took some scabs off some healing wounds, and you ripped them apart for one reason: You wanted to make yourself more famous," Linn said. "And for a while, it worked. Everybody was talking about you."
Smollett’s attorneys said they would appeal. Linn refused requests to stay the sentence, or put it on hold, while an appeal is pursued.
“I’m not staying this. This happens right here, right now,” Linn said.
Smollett raised his fist as he was being led out of court by law enforcement, saying: “I am not suicidal. And I am innocent. I could have said that I was guilty a long time ago.”
Siblings of Smollett said they were disappointed with the sentence, and some took exception to the judge’s comments.
"I did not expect him to be completely lenient and listen. But at the same time, he shamed my brother," said Smollett’s older brother, Jojo Smollett. "He spoke about his arrogance. He doesn’t know the struggles my brother is encountering. He doesn’t know anything that he’s dealing with."
Before sentencing, Smollett's legal team had pushed for either a new trial or a not guilty verdict, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated when the court prevented his lawyers from actively participating in the jury selection process.
In court documents, the team wrote that the court "made numerous trial errors leading up to the trial and during the pendency of the trial."
His lawyers argued that they were not allowed to ask questions of the potential jurors, preventing them from discovering any possible biases or “questionable impartiality” toward Smollett given the case’s high profile.
Linn said Thursday that whatever sentence he could hand down would pale in comparison to the damage Smollett did to himself and his career.
“Your very name has become an adverb for lying,” Linn said. “And I cannot imagine what can be worse than that.”
Smollett was also ordered to pay around $120,100 in restitution to the city of Chicago and was fined $25,000, the maximum allowed.
Gloria Rodriguez, an attorney for the Osundairo brothers, issued a statement after the sentencing.
"The Honorable Judge Linn found the Osundairo Brothers not to be criminally connected to Mr. Smollett’s crime in any way, and for anyone continuing to state otherwise simply does not understand the laws or facts in this case," she said. "Nevertheless, the Osundairo Brothers regret their role in the case and hope that the sentence today brings closure to the affected people of Chicago. They look forward to telling their story in detail in the very near future."
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot praised the decision in a scalding statement Thursday night, saying Smollett’s conviction and sentencing send a clear message “that false claims and allegations will not be tolerated.”
“The malicious and wholly fabricated claim made by Mr. Smollett resulted in over 1500 hours of police work that cost the City over $130,000 in police overtime,” she continued. “The City feels vindicated in today’s ruling that he is being held accountable and that we will appropriately receive restitution for his actions.”