After the judge announced his sentence, Smollett took down his face mask and said he was innocent. “Your honor, I respect you and the jury, but I did not,” the representative told the judge before heading to court. “And I’m not suicidal. And if anything happens to me when I go there, I don’t do it myself. And you should all know that.”
Just before he was taken into custody, the actor once again shouted that he was innocent and raised his fist in the air.
Cook County Judge James Lane spoke for more than 30 minutes before Smollett’s sentence was announced, telling the actor that he wrote the script and chose the actors for the trick, and that his reasoning for the act was an “aggravating factor” in the case.
The judge said, “There is a side of you in which this arrogance, selfishness and narcissism is shameful.” “You’re not a victim of a racist hate crime, you’re not a victim of a homophobic hate crime. You’re just a charlatan pretending to be a victim of a hate crime, and that’s shameful.”
Smollett maintained his innocence under oath during the trial, but a jury convicted him on five of six criminal charges after nine hours of deliberation.
While a conviction for disorderly conduct due to a false crime report carries a prison sentence of up to three years, it is rare for a judge to sentence an offender who has not previously been convicted of a felony to imprisonment for up to this charge.
Prosecutors urged the judge to issue a “appropriate” ruling for Smollett, citing the fact that the perpetrator did not take responsibility for his actions, and said he may have harmed the efforts of genuine hate crime victims to come forward.
Smollett’s lawyers argued that he should be given a more lenient sentence such a test, citing his lack of criminal history and the community service he did. They read several letters attesting to that part of his life. Before announcing the ruling, the judge also spoke about prominent figures in social justice circles who requested a reduced sentence for Smollett.
“You have a great track record of genuine community service and a track record of reaching out to people,” the judge said. “I am conscious of the pleas for mercy, particularly from the people in the arena.”
But in the end, the judge said, this act showed Smollett’s “dark side.”
Lane had the discretion to impose a simultaneous or consecutive sentence for each of the five counts.
Smollett’s attorney Tina Glandian also argued Thursday that the guilty verdict should be overturned and a new trial granted based on pre-trial and in-trial errors of law. In response, Deputy Special Prosecutor Shaun Weber said her arguments were “unfounded” and the conviction must stand.
Judge Lane dismissed the defense’s request, saying he believed Smollett received a fair trial.
‘Shame my brother’
At a news conference following the ruling, Smollett’s brother, Jojo Smollett, told reporters he was disappointed with the outcome.
Jojo Smollett said, “I didn’t expect him to be completely lenient and listen. But at the same time, shame my brother. Talk about his arrogance.” “He doesn’t know my brother’s difficulties. He doesn’t know anything about anything he’s dealing with.”
The actor’s sister, Jazz Smollett, called the decision a “miscarriage of justice.”
“My brother is innocent,” Smollett’s sister said. “This should not be a controversial statement because it is the ultimate truth.”
The prison sentence is the latest occurrence in a zigzag case involving issues of racism, homophobia, celebrity, police and fraud.
After police determined his reports were false, Smollett was indicted in March 2019 on 16 counts of disorderly conduct offenses. But the Cook County District Attorney’s office, Kim Fox, dropped all charges weeks later, saying he had done community service, would not get his $10,000 bond back, was not a danger to the community and had no prior crimes.
“Who was responsible for this thing?” asked Special Prosecutor Dan Webb.
“Jossie Kant,” Abimbola Osondaero told the jury.
Smollett had no previous felonies
The primary question at sentencing was whether Smollett, who had no prior felonies, would be sentenced.
CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Joe Jackson previously told CNN that Smollett “exposed himself to prison terms” when he testified in court.
“What Josie Smollett said was flatly rejected by that jury,” Jackson said. “The jury didn’t buy what he was selling. The judge didn’t lose it. I came into the courtroom and fabricated it.”
Court documents show that the city of Chicago also filed a lawsuit against Smollett in April 2019 after the actor refused to pay $130,106.15 to the city for a police investigation. Smollett filed a counterclaim in November 2020.
The Chicago Department of Law noted in the city’s lawsuit that more than two dozen police officers and investigators spent weeks working on the Smollett case in 2019, resulting in 1,836 overtime hours.
After Smollett’s conviction in December, the city said it intended to pursue the lawsuit.
During sentencing, the judge highlighted the amount of police work that came under investigation, and told Smollett that police resources are valuable and limited.
“You took a lot of resources from other places, from other real victims of real crimes and used police resources for your own benefit, and that’s a big problem here,” the judge said.
CNN’s Christina Maxuris and Eric Levinson contributed to this report.
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