The long, strange legal journey of former Empire star Jussie Smollett hit a new inflection point tonight, as a Chicago court has now sentenced the actor and musician to 150 days in jail, 30 months probation, and a combination of fines and restitution totaling more than $145,000.
Today’s sentencing follows a verdict handed down three months ago, when Smollett was found guilty by a jury on five counts of felony disorderly conduct, all related to charges that he filed a false police report in early 2019, after reporting on social media that he’d been attacked by two white men on the streets of Chicago.
Smollett’s account—which included assertions that the two men had used both homophobic and racist language, declared he was in “MAGA country,” and poured bleach on him—quickly became national news. But critics and authorities both began issuing public doubts about the truth of Smollett’s claims, spurred on by inconsistencies in his story, as well as evidence that he may have paid two men associated with the Empire staff to stage the attack against him.
For a while, it looked like the whole incident might get shuffled into the dustbin of especially depressing and embarrassing history, with the Chicago Police Department dropping 16 charges it had been developing against the actor. But then a Chicago special prosecutor picked the case back up, leading to Smollett’s conviction in December of 2021.
Cook County Judge James Linn was damning in his delivery of the sentence, asserting that, “there is nothing I can do here today that will come close to the damage that you have already done to your own life,” and accusing the actor of “throwing a national pity party for yourself.”
Smollett has continued to assert his innocence in the case. Per Consequence Of Sound, he declined to testify on his own behalf, but made several statements that he “was not suicidal” as he exited the courtroom, and that, “If anything happens to me in there, I did not do it!”