Jussie Smollett sentencing: Legal experts step in after actor learns of fate

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Jussie Smollett learned of his fate on Thursday after a judge handed down the terms of his sentence after four contentious hours in a Chicago courtroom.

Just minutes after being taken into custody to begin serving 150 days in prison, the actor addressed the court one last time – despite saying before having his sentence read that he had nothing to say.

The 39-year-old former ‘Empire’ star stood up and claimed his innocence in an impassioned statement to Cook County Judge James Linn, saying, “I’m not suicidal.”

“I respect you, your honor,” Smollett said, clasping his hands in a gesture toward the bench. “I respect your decision. Jail? I’m not suicidal. …If anything happens to me in this, I didn’t do it to myself!”

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Smollett was then surrounded by sheriff’s deputies before being led out of the courtroom – but not before raising his right fist in the air as he walked out.

In addition to the prison sentence, Linn also sentenced Smollett to 30 months of felony probation. Smollett was also ordered to pay $120,106 in restitution to the City of Chicago.

The best deal available?

After sentencing, Ally F. Keegan — a criminal defense attorney at the San Diego-based law firm of David P. Shapiro who is not involved in the case — told Fox News Digital that she believed the sentence given to Smollett was fair given the nature of the crime and the actions that contributed to its planning and execution.

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“Judge James Linn noted that he had two sentencing options: either a probationary period with up to 180 days in prison, or up to three years in prison,” Keegan explained, adding that Smollett received the better offer at his disposal.

Actor Jussie Smollett appears with his attorneys during his sentencing hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, Thursday, March 10, 2022, in Chicago.
(Associated Press)

“Behind a Plexiglas barrier and next to healthy cranberry juice, the judge recounted the many factors he believed made the case reprehensible: that Smollett had planned the hoax so meticulously, the negative impact that it could have on the real victims of hate crimes, the waste of law enforcement time and resources to investigate, and Smollett’s own testimony that the judge said “can only be described as pure perjury “.

“The sentence may be warranted by Smollett’s lack of a criminal history and other mitigating statements filed by his attorneys, in particular letters of support from prominent social justice and community leaders,” he said. continued Keegan. “As he was taken into custody to begin his sentence, Smollett cried out that he was innocent but not suicidal so any harm that may happen to him while in custody will not be self-inflicted.”

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“While the next step in the legal process may be an appeal, Smollett must also face the court of public opinion to move forward; in pursuing his acting career or whatever. other,” she added.

Pulled out all the stops

During Smollett’s sentencing hearing, the singer-songwriter’s defense team pulled out all the stops in their concerted efforts to have the jury first overturn Smollett’s conviction, then the judge grants Smollett a new trial and later in their attempt to mitigate a potential jail sentence. time to nothing.

Tina Glandian, a member of the defense team, alleged a number of “glaring errors” which she said played against Smollett during his trial.

She argued that Smollett’s rights had been violated and also raised the idea that “the charges should have been dismissed” given that Smollett’s case was initially dismissed and Smollett was given work as a general interest and had lost $10,000.

“At the end of the day, a deal is a deal and the case should have been thrown out because of it,” Glandian said Thursday, candidly saying “we believe the jury selection process was flawed.”

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“Anyone who looked at this jury could tell that it was not a jury made up of Mr. Smollett’s peers in Chicago,” she said in defense of the actor and singer.

“Hard” trial period

Contrary to Keegan’s position on the fairness of Smollett’s sentence, Rachel Fiset, a white-collar criminal defense attorney and managing partner of Zweiback, Fiset & Coleman — who is also a bystander of the Smollett proceedings and uninvolved — argued. conveyed to Fox News Digital that the 30-month criminal probationary period seems a little “tough” even with the judge’s rationale for the decision.

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“The judge went into his reasoning at length behind his determination of this sentence. The sentence calls for approximately five months in jail, which is significantly less than the maximum, but a fairly harsh 30-month court-supervised probation period,” said Fiset. Explain. “The probation, however, allows Smollett to travel freely and ‘call in’ to report his status – which greatly mitigates the impact of the length of probation. Overall, I think this sentence fairly reflects the gravity of the crimes of which Smollett was convicted.”

Court testimony on Smollett’s behalf came mostly from people in the artist’s personal life, who spoke out in support of his character and his charitable efforts.

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The actor’s older brother, Jojo Smollett, pleaded in court that his brother had already suffered enough punishment by having his ‘Empire’ role snatched away ‘before he was even charged’. He also spoke of the “anxiety” Smollett had previously experienced as well as the “pseudo house arrest” he has since endured amid his trial.

Smollett’s grandmother, Molly Smollett, 92, also took the witness stand and warned the media while challenging reporters to do better investigative reporting.

In December, Smollett was found guilty in a trial that included testimony from two brothers who told jurors that Smollett paid them to carry out the attack, gave them money for ski masks and rope, and asked them to shape the rope into a slipknot.

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Prosecutors said Smollett told the brothers what racist and homophobic slurs to yell and yell that Smollett was in “MAGA Country,” a reference to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Smollett faces up to three years in prison for each of the five disorderly conduct charges – the charge filed for lying to police – of which he was convicted. He was acquitted on a sixth count.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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