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Actor Jussie Smollett given five months in jail for phony hate crime report, staged attack

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Actor Jussie Smollett given five months in jail for phony hate crime report, staged attack
Actor Jussie Smollett leaves the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago, Ill., on February 24, 2020, after pleading not guilty to felony charges of disorderly conduct for lying to police about an attack that he staged in a bid to gain public sympathy, prosecutors said. File Photo by Tannen Maury/EPA-EFE

March 10 (UPI) -- Actor Jussie Smollett repeated the phrase "I am not suicidal" when given the chance to speak, after he was handed 150 days in jail Thursday, as part of his sentence for fabricating a hate crime attack three years ago.

When asked by Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Linn if he had anything to say, Smollett, 39, partially removed his mask, and said "I am not suicidal" before standing and sounding off, saying he respected the judge and his decision but also repeatedly saying "I did not do this."

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"I am not suicidal and I did not do this. If anything happens to me when I go in there (jail), you must all know that," Smollett said, before being lead away to begin serving his term at the Cook County Jail.

Smollett did not address the court during the sentencing hearing, when given a chance by the judge.

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The former Empire star was found guilty last December on five of six counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report that says he was attacked by a pair of men who targeted him because of his race and sexual orientation. He reported that they placed a noose around his neck in the Streeterville neighborhood of Cook County, Ill., near Chicago on Jan. 29, 2019.

Linn denied a motion by Smollett's defense team to reconsider the sentence after it was handed down. He also denied a request to suspend the jail term portion of it, pending an appeal, which Smollett's lawyers confirmed in court they were filing immediately.

"The wheel of justice turns slow. Sometimes the hammer of justice has to fall. This is happening," Linn said, in response to requests to suspend the jail term.

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The judge handed Smollett a 30-month felony probation term and ordered him to pay $120,106 in restitution to the City of Chicago. He was also given a $25,000 fine in addition to the payment.

The restitution was important, as Linn cited the drain the very-public case put on Chicago's stretched police resources.

"We have some really serious aggravating factors here," said Linn, while delivering his reasons for sentencing.

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"Crime is a problem, police resources are valuable. You took away a lot of resources from real victims of real crimes. You did exactly what you did not want to happen. You didn't want this case solved."

Smollett's lawyers had sought probation for the Class-4 felony charge, which is the case more often than not.

But the judge said the planning and rehearsal that went into the staged assault was a major aggravating factor.

"Then there's premeditation. That's what you are all about here, premeditation," said Linn.

"Your extreme premeditation is an aggravating factor. That's the crime you're here for, lying to the police."

The judge said that while he did see the good side of Smollett in his numerous charitable acts, he also repeatedly described him as "arrogant" and "narcissistic."

"I don't think money motivated you at all. The only thing that I can find is that you craved the attention," Linn said.

"You're just a charlatan pretending to be the victim of a hate crime."

Smollett has no prior criminal convictions.

He had filed a motion with the court, asking for an acquittal or a new trial because Linn and prosecutors made several errors in the case. The filing cites Linn's "hostile attitude and prejudicial commentary" and says prosecutors were discriminatory toward potential Black jurors.

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Unlike the initial trial, Linn allowed Thursday's sentencing hearing to be broadcast to the public.

Smollett's brother and 92-year-old grandmother both delivered statements asking for leniency.

"Jussie is loved and respected by all who know him, and I request you, the judge, do not send him to prison. Or if you do, send me with him," Molly Smollett told the court.

Actor Samuel L. Jackson and wife LaTanya Jackson, who have known Smollett since his childhood, sent a letter to the court, one of several asking for leniency.

"I humbly implore you find an alternative to incarceration for Jussie Smollett...It is incredulous to me and to Sam that this criminal situation even exists...Please save this young man and allow him to be of service," states the letter, which was read aloud in its entirety.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb did not ask for a specific sentence, but did ask for a term of incarceration.

"I do believe misconduct is serious," Webb said during his submission.

"We do believe this is a serious criminal conduct that requires an appropriate amount of prison time."

The jury in the case ultimately found Smollett guilty on five counts of felony disorderly conduct for lying to police. He was acquitted on a sixth charge that accused him of making false statements to a police detective. Photo courtesy Chicago Police Department/UPI
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Ultimately, the judge agreed with Webb, who said if there is one thing that people in Chicago can agree on, it's that crime is out of control, in a reference to the drain on police resources the case ultimately caused.

Smollett's strange legal saga began about two months after he reported the phony assault, in March 2019, when he was originally charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. Nineteen days later, Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx abruptly dropped the 16-count indictment, citing his "volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the city of Chicago."

After some negative public reaction over Foxx's dismissal of charges against Smollett, the actor was indicted again in February 2020 on six counts of disorderly conduct for the false police reports. The new charges followed a six-month investigation that found "operational failures" in Foxx's handling of the charges against the actor.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Smollett paid Nigerian-born brothers Abimbola Osundairo and Olabinjo Osundairo to stage an attack against him and taunt him with racial slurs. They said Smollett pursued the phony attack in a bid to drum up public sympathy and settle a dispute about his security.

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Abimbola Osundairo, a bodybuilder, testified that he was "good friends" with Smollett and procured drugs for him, gave him fitness advice and spent time around the actor in hopes that Smollett could help him advance his own acting career. He also said Smollett gave him a check for $3,500, which he said was partly payment for staging the bogus attack.

At his trial, Smollett testified in his own defense and denied involvement in planning the attack -- calling the Nigerian brothers "liars" and accusing police of changing his statements about the event to make one of his attackers White.

During sentencing, Linn said Smollett's testimony in his own defense, "could only be described as pure perjury."

Smollett, who is gay, also testified on the stand that he had a sexual relationship with Abimbola Osundairo.

The jury in the case ultimately found Smollett guilty on five counts of felony disorderly conduct for lying to police. He was acquitted on a sixth charge that accused him of making false statements to a police detective about two weeks after the staged attack. Webb later said that the sixth charge wasn't essential to the case.

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