Jussie Smollett Freed Pending Appeal

Actor released on personal recognizance
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 16, 2022 7:05 PM CDT
Updated Mar 16, 2022 9:46 PM CDT
Smollett Wins His Release Pending Appeal
Actor Jussie Smollett tears up after listening to his brother testify at his sentencing hearing last week in Chicago.   (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)

This story has been updated with additional details. Jussie Smollett was released from jail Wednesday following six nights behind bars after an appeals court agreed with his lawyers that he should be free pending the appeal of his conviction for lying to police about a racist and homophobic attack. The former Empire actor walked out of the Cook County Jail surrounded by security, the AP reports. He did not comment as he got into an awaiting SUV, but his attorneys said Smollett, who is Black and gay, was the target of a racist justice system and people playing politics. The appeals court ruling came after a Cook County judge sentenced Smollett last week to immediately begin serving 150 days in jail for his conviction on five felony counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police.

The appeals court said Smollett could be released after posting a personal recognizance bond of $150,000, meaning he didn't have to put down money but agrees to come to court as required. Smollett defense attorney Nenye Uche, speaking to reporters outside the jail after Smollett left, said the Smollett family is “very very happy with today’s developments.” Uche said during his time at the jail, Smollett had not eaten and drank only water, though he did not say why. He criticized the special prosecutor’s decision to charge Smollett again after the initial charges were dropped by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and he paid a fine. He also called Judge James Linn's sentence excessive for a low-level felony, adding that the appellate court doesn't “play politics.” “The real question is: Should Black men be walked into jail for a class 4 felony? Shame on you if you think they should,” Uche said.

In an outburst immediately after the sentence was handed down, Smollett proclaimed his innocence and said “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.” Smollett’s attorneys had argued that he would have completed the sentence by the time the appeal process was completed and that Smollett could be in danger of physical harm if he remained locked up. The office of the special prosecutor called the claim that Smollett’s health and safety were at risk “factually incorrect,” in a response to his motion, noting that Smollett was being held in protective custody at the jail. Uche said the first thing Jussie did when learning the news was push his hands on the glass between them and said he nearly lost hope in the US constitutional system. “I think he had nearly given up,” Uche said. He said the next step will be to file an appeal of the verdict. (Read more Jussie Smollett stories.)

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