Jussie Smollett has arrived at court with his family to be sentenced for lying to police, bringing with him his elderly 92-year-old grandmother to try to convince the judge not to put him behind bars.
The actor, 39, faces three years behind bars for lying to police. On January 29, 2019, he claimed he was attacked by two white thugs wearing red hats who called him a ‘f****t’ and the N-word at around 2am as he walked home from collecting a sandwich from Subway.
He was initially hesitant to talk to police about it, refused to hand over his cell phone for weeks and then launched his narrative, going on Good Morning America and performing music shows where he spoke proudly of ‘fighting back’ as a black gay man in America. At trial, a jury ruled that none of it was true.
Smollett had in fact hired his two black friends, Abel and Ola Osundairo – a pair of brothers with Nigerian heritage- to stage the attack as a way of raising his celebrity profile.
Prosecutors told how he never intended for the stunt to be reported to police and that he simply wanted to get attention and possibly a raise from Empire, the show he was acting in.
Smollett maintained his innocence and still does. He will attend court today with his 92-year-old grandmother, Molly, who will also ask the judge to show him mercy in sentencing. His older brother Joel will also speak, as will musical director Rich Daniels, a friend who says he ‘loves Jussie like a brother’, and Sharon Gelman, Former Executive Director, Artists for a New South Africa.
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Jussie Smollett sits with his legal team in the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago on Thursday awaiting sentencing
Jussie Smollett is pictured in court on Thursday to be sentenced on five counts of felony 4 disorderly conduct for lying to police. He faces three years behind bars
Jussie Smollett has arrives at court with his family to be sentenced for lying to police, bringing with him his elderly 92-year-old grandmother to try to convince the judge not to put him behind bars
Smollett entered court holding hands with members of his family. He was joined by his mother, Janet, siblings and 92-year-old grandmother
Smollett holds hands with his sister, right, and another relative as he makes his way into the Leighton Courthouse in Chicago on Thursday
Smollett arriving in court with his family on Thursday afternoon. He faces three years behind bars
Defense attorney Tina Glandian spoke first. She argued that Smollett should never have been charged again in February 2020, a year after the first set of charges against him were dropped, and that he had been granted immunity from the state of Illinois as part of the first deal where he served 15 hours of community service and forfeited $10,000.
She also accused Judge James Linn of not selecting the jury fairly because he did not ask all of the questions they wanted him to during jury selection.
He shot back at her on Thursday, saying: ‘I picked the jury the same way I would in a murder case. I absolutely treated him the same as everybody else.’
Judge Linn told the court that Smollett’s attorneys wanted him to ask prospective jurors ‘what kind of animal they would want to be’, which they deemed to be a ‘critical question’.
‘I asked most of the questions the defense requested of me. You wanted me to ask what kind of animal do you want to be?
‘Did you really think I was going to ask those type of questions?’ Judge Linn said.
Smollett’s team says the judge has received 80 letters in support of him, asking for an alternative sentence.
They say that the letters point out how Smollett has reason to fear for his safety in prison as a ‘gay, black Jewish man’.
The long legal saga finally draws to a close today, more than three years after it began.
Smollett’s attorney Tina Glandian asked the judge for a new trial. She argued double jeopardy, said the intense media interest in the case prejudiced the jury and that there was prosecutorial misconduct throughout
Ola Osundairo, one of the Nigerian brothers who Smollett paid to stage the attack, is in the overflow room awaiting the sentencing
Prosecutor Dan Webb, center, arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court House in advance of the sentencing hearing for former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett on Thursday, March 10, 2022
Since the beginning, the case against Smollett has ignited debate and enraged many in the worlds of showbiz, politics and civil rights.
Smollett was arrested in February 2019, then the charges against him were suddenly dropped after a suspicious investigation by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and her office, who Smollett had been in touch with in the early days of the case.
A special prosecutor brought fresh charged against him.
Before sentencing on Thursday, his legal team submitted letters to the judge from black rights organizations asking for leniency.
One was written by the president of the NAACP who claimed Smollett had been subjected to an unfair amount of scrutiny and attention.
‘It would be an understatement to say that an inordinate amount of attention has been given to Mr. Smollett’s case.
A jury convicted Smollett of lying to cops. Brothers Abel (left) and Ola (right) Osundairo testified that Smollett paid them to attack him and that he hoped he’d get more attention at work
The two brothers are shown on the night of the attack on January 29, 2019, on a Chicago street surveillance camera
TIMELINE OF JUSSIE SMOLLETT SAGA FROM FIRST CALL TO COPS TO HIS SENTENCING
January 29, 2019: Smollett tells police he was attacked at around 2am while walking home from Subway. He says his attackers were white or light-skinned, and that they put a noose around his neck and yelled racial and homophobic slurs
Smollett, on police bodycam, shows police the noose around his neck that he claimed his attackers put there
January 30: Details are leaked to the public and Smollett wins a groundswell of support. Chicago PD vows a swift investigation to find the attackers
February 2: Smollett opens a concert in West Hollywood, California, with an emotional speech, saying he had to play the show because he couldn’t let his attackers win.
February 13: Unbeknownst to the public, Chicago PD investigators have zeroed in on the brothers after reviewing surveillance footage from the night of the attack and Lyft and Uber records. They pick up the brothers at the airport as they return from Nigeria.
They are released without charge.
By then, stories had leaked from Chicago PD that some suspected Smollett of lying.
February 14: Jussie Smollett appears on Good Morning America to tearfully protest that he is telling the truth.
Robin Roberts shows him surveillance footage from the night of the attack and he says definitively that the men shown are his attackers
February 19: Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recuses herself from the case because of her contact with Smollett’s family
February 20: Smollett is charged with filing a false police report
February 21: Smollett surrenders to police but maintains his innocence
February 22: Smollett’s character is removed from Empire
March 7: A grand jury returns 16-count indictment charging Smollett with lying to cops repeatedly
March 26: Charges against Smollett are dramatically dropped. The decision sparks public outrage
March 28: The City of Chicago says it will sue Smollett for $140,000 in wasted police resources
April 23: Abel and Ola Osundairo file lawsuit against Smollett’s lawyers who called them liars on TV
August 23: Former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb named as special prosecutor to investigate why charges against Smollett were dropped
Feb 11, 2020: Smollett is indicted by a grand jury on six counts of felony lying to police
February 24 2020: Smollett pleads not guilty
November 29, 2021: After an 18-month break due to COVID-19 affecting courts, Smollett’s trial finally begins in Chicago
Dec. 6 2021: Smollett testifies at trial insisting he is telling the truth
December 9: Smollett is convicted on five of the six counts of lying to police
March 10 2022: Smollett is sentenced
‘This case involves no drugs, no theft, no sex, no property damage, and no physical injury to anyone other than the defendant.
‘Despite the attention paid to it by the media, at its heart, this case involves a low-level, non-violent offense.
‘We urge the Court to keep this truth in mind when sentencing Mr. Smollet,’ Derrick Johnson wrote.
Another letter was submitted by Black Lives Matter-Grassroots Director Melina Abdullah.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the case after revealing she had been in touch with Smollett’s family
‘Black Lives Matter stands in strong support of an alternative-to-incarceration sentence for Jussie Smollett,’ their letter read.
It details all of the financial contributions Smollett has made to civil rights organizations and his commitment to the community.
The brothers testified at trial how Smollett paid them to carry out the attack, how he rehearsed it with them and how they came to know him beforehand.
Smollett’s defense was that they were lying throughout.
His attorney offered several motives for the lying. Smollett himself claimed he and Abel Osundairo had visited bathhouses together where they ‘made out’.
Abel said that never happened, but that neither he nor his brother were homophobic – as Smollett’s attorneys had suggested.
They showed the jury photos of them handing out condoms at a Pride parade to prove they had no prejudice against gay men.
The brothers said they did not want to necessarily harm Smollett, but that they wanted to tell the truth.
Smollett’s lies enraged Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson, who was in charge of the force at the time but is not anymore, and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
After today’s hearing, Smollett’s attorney Nenya Uche is scheduled to make a brief statement but he will not be asked to.
Jussie Smollett, left, is shown with Abel Osundairo, right, on January 19, 2019, ten days before the attack that Abel says Smollett paid him to carry out. Jussie told the trial that he and Abel were occasional lovers who ‘made out’ in bathhouses and masturbated together
Jussie and Abel are shown together in July 2018 (left) and again in September 2018 (right). Jussie said they had a romantic relationship but he didn’t spend time with Abel’s brother Olabinjo, not pictured