CHICAGO (WLS) — Jussie Smollett’s legal team is working to get him out of jail after filing an official notice they will seek an appeal Friday.
Smollett spent his first full day behind bars Friday after a judge sentenced him to 150 days, or five months, for lying to police about a fake hate crime he staged against himself.
Smollett’s attorney’s spokesperson said late Friday his legal team has filed an emergency injunction seeking his release from jail during the appeal process. An appellate court judge ruled prosecutors have five days to respond to the emergency motion.
For now, Smollett is in protective custody at Cook County Jail, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said in a written statement. That means he is “housed in his own cell, which is monitored by security cameras in the cell and by an officers wearing a body camera who is stationed at the entrance of the cell to ensure Mr. Smollett is under direct observation at all times.”
“He’s a high-profile defendant,” ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer said. “And if there is anyone who’s safe in jail, who the authorities want to make sure is safe in jail, it’s him.”
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As expected, Smollett’s defense attorney formally filed a notice of appeal Friday. Soffer has been watching this case and does not see grounds for an appeal to likely be granted.
“You see a strong case for appeal when the judge clearly excluded evidence that should have been admitted or admitted evidence that should have been excluded,” Soffer said. “And I don’t see that happening here.”
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Thursday’s hearing ended dramatically as Smollett got up from his seat and declared his innocence and his concern for his own safety.
The 39-year was expressionless, and his family and others, in the courtroom were stunned as Cook County Judge James Linn handed down sentencing.
“You will spend the first 150 days of your sentence in the Cook County Jail, and that will start today. Right here, right now,” Judge Linn said.
During the sentencing, Linn referred to the extensive litigation and thoroughness of the attorneys before, during and after trial. And he emphasized that the sentence was based on only what was presented in court and not the attention to this case.
“People seem to care about this. People care passionately for a variety of reasons in this case and the reasons are many,” Linn said. “And let me be clear: the sentence I put forward and render down to Mr. Smollett is not in any way to assuage any public sentiment.”
In considering the sentence, Linn said Smollett’s “extreme” premeditation of the crime was an aggravating factor. He also said the actor had denigrated the experiences of real hate crime victims, calling him a “charlatan” and a liar.
“You got on the witness stand. You didn’t have to. You did. You certainly had a right to. But you committed hour upon hour upon hour of pure perjury,” Linn said.
WATCH | Judge Linn scolds Jussie Smollett for over 30 minutes
While in jail, Smollett also begins 30 months of probation in addition to being ordered to pay more than $120,000 in restitution to the city of Chicago and a $25,000 fine.
The disgraced actor then addressed the court.
“I am not suicidal,” Smollett said. “I am not suicidal! I am innocent! And I am not suicidal. If I did this, then it means that I stuck my fist in the fears of Black Americans in this country for 400 years and the fears of the LGBTQ community. 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!”
The sentence came three months after Smollett was convicted of five counts of felony disorderly conduct for lying to Chicago police.
“I didn’t think it would be quite this long, but the judge made clear he sees this offense more than just a minor felony, he sees it did damage to hate crime victims everywhere,” said ABC7 Legal Analyst Gil Soffer.
Smollett was still proclaiming his innocence as he was led out of court after sentencing.
“I am innocent!” he said. “I could have said I was guilty a long time ago!”
Smollett asked to be placed in protective custody and Linn signed an order requesting it, according to court documents filed after the hearing. The decision, though, is ultimately up to the sheriff’s office, which runs the jail and has wide latitude in how it manages the population of just over 6,000 detainees.
Smollett is being housed in his own cell, which is monitored by security cameras and by an officer wearing a bodycam to ensure he is under direct observation at all times, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
“Mr. Smollett is not being held in solitary confinement. The use of solitary confinement was abolished at the Cook County Jail in 2016, and any claims that he is being held in this manner is false. Mr. Smollett is being housed in his own cell, which is monitored by security cameras in the cell and by an officer wearing a body worn camera who is stationed at the entrance of the cell to ensure that Mr. Smollett is under direct observation at all times. As with all detained persons, Mr. Smollett is entitled to have substantial time out of his cell in the common areas on the tier where he is housed, where he is able to use the telephone, watch television, and interact with staff. During such times out of cell, other detainees will not be present in the common areas. These protocols are routinely used for individuals ordered into protective custody who may potentially be at risk of harm due to the nature of their charges, their profession, or their noteworthy status. The safety and security of all detained individuals, including Mr. Smollett, is the Sheriff’s Office’s highest priority.”
The action is neither unexpected nor unusual. High-profile and other at-risk detainees are usually kept segregated from the jail’s general population.
The Cook County Sheriff’s department is evaluating Smollett and where and how he should be housed while serving his sentence. It is likely Smollett may only serve half of the 150 days if he gets credit for good behavior.
WATCH | Family defends Jussie Smollett’s innocence after sentencing
The sentencing outraged Smollett’s family, who slammed the judge after sentencing.
“My brother Jussie is innocent this should not be a controversial statement because it is the absolute truth,” said Jazz Smollett, Jussie’s sister.
“He shamed my brother,” Jojo Smollett, Jussie’s brother, said. “He spoke about his arrogance. He doesn’t know about the struggle my brother is encountering.”
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Meanwhile, Special Prosecutor Dan Webb praised the judge.
“This was a course of conduct that deserved severe punishment,” Webb said. “I thought it was the right way to do it. And I do believe that based on the sentencing he received that Judge Linn clearly understood exactly what had happened in this case.”
Smollett’s defense team said they were stunned and vowed to appeal.
“I have never seen in my entire career as an attorney, and none of the other attorneys here have ever seen a situation where a class 4 felony gets the same treatment as a violent offense,” said defense attorney Nenye Uche.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot applauded the judge’s ruling, writing: “The criminal conviction of Jussie Smollett by a jury of his peers and today’s sentencing should send a clear message to everyone in the City of Chicago that false claims and allegations will not be tolerated. The malicious and wholly fabricated claim made by Mr. Smollett resulted in over 1500 hours of police work that cost the City over $130,000 in police overtime. The City feels vindicated in today’s ruling that he is being held accountable and that we will appropriately receive restitution for his actions.”
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The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report
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