Empire actor Jussie Smollett was sentenced to jail time on Thursday for his role in a January 2019 assault against him that investigators say was a hoax, but he has his supporters speaking out againt the sentence. Among them is his sister, Lovecraft Country and Birds of Prey star Jurnee Smollett, who posted a message on behalf of her brother on Instagram. Establishing the hashtag #FreeJussie, Jurnee has called upon Cook County to release Smollett from jail, arguing that the sentence he was given was unjust.
“Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly five times the rate of White Americans. Jussie is innocent. And you do not have to believe in his innocence to believe he should be free,” Jurnee says, adding the hashtags #FreeJussie and #StopLockingUpOurPeople.
In a previous interview with THRJurnee said of the incident, “It’s been f *** ing painful, one of the most painful things my family’s ever experienced – to love someone as much as we love my brother, and to watch someone who you love that much go through something like this, that is so public, has been devastating. I was already in a very dark space for a number of reasons, and I’ve tried not to let it make me pessimistic. But everyone who knows me knows that I love my brother and I believe my brother. “
On Thursday, Jussie Smollett was sentenced to 150 days in jail for the incident. His overall sentence also included 30 months of probation, $ 120,106 in restitution to be paid to the city, and an additional $ 25,000 in fines. When Smollett learned his sentence, he spoke out in the courtroom to maintain his innocence and make it clear that he was “not suicidal.”
“If I did this, then it means I stuck my fist in the fears of Black Americans in this country for over 400 years and the fears of the LGBT community,” Smollett said. “Your Honor, I respect you and I respect the jury but I did not do this. And I am not suicidal. And if anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it to myself. And you must all know that. ”
Before he was led out of the courtroom, Smollett added, “I am not suicidal, I am innocent!”
Jussie Smollett Maintains That He Never Staged the Attack
In January 2019, Jussie Smollett alleged that he was attacked by two masked men while walking home from a Subway restaurant. The actor said his assailants had shouted ethnic and homophobic slurs at him, suggesting that this had been a hate crime. He also said he was doused with bleach and had a rope placed around his neck during the attack. Initially, there had been an outpouring of support for Smollett from many on social media along with various celebrities in and out of Hollywood.
Police were skeptical of Smollett’s story. Their investigation uncovered the identity of the two masked men, identified as brothers who worked with Smollett as extras on Empire. They claimed that Smollett had paid them to orchestrate the attack. At trial, Smollett admitted to knowing the attackers but insisted the assault was real. He claimed to have had a physical relationship with one of the two brothers that went bad and this was a way to get back at him. Unfortunately for Smollett, his story failed to convince those in court.
“His conduct denigrated hate crimes,” prosecutor Dan Webb said of the sentencing. “His conduct will discourage others who are victims of hate crimes from coming forward and reporting those crimes to law enforcement.”
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