Former Empire actor Jussie Smollett has been sentenced to 150 days in jail after he was convicted in 2021 on five felony counts of lying to the police.
In January 2019, Smollett, who is Black and gay, said he had been a victim of a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago, though evidence presented in court revealed he staged the attack and then told a false story to law enforcement.
Smollett is sentenced to a total of 30 months of felony probation, in which he will be allowed to travel. He also must pay a fine of $25,000 and more than $120,000 in restitution to the city of Chicago.
"I'm not suicidal, I am innocent. I did not do it, your honor," Smollett said after the sentence was handed down by Judge James Linn.
"The hypocrisy is just astounding," Linn said, adding that he knew Smollett was brought up to be sensitive to issues of racial discrimination.
The judge said the actor has shown to have a side of himself that is "profoundly selfish and narcissistic," though he acknowledged that Smollett had good qualities too.
"I believe that you have done real damage to hate crimes, to hate crime victims," Linn said. He pointed out that victims may be more hesitant to come forward as a result of Smollett's deception.
Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Smollett to "an appropriate amount of prison time." They said that Smollett cost the city's police department money, and the team wants his sentence to include payments totaling the cost of overtime that officers worked during the investigation.
Smollett's defense lawyers, however, said the 39-year-old actor shouldn't be sentenced to prison, saying that he's already suffered enough with the loss of his acting career.
Several witnesses, including Smollett's 92-year-old grandmother, Molly, spoke about his character.
"Jussie is what I call a justice warrior. He has been active against injustice all his life... I ask you, the judge, not to send him to prison. If you do, send me along with him," she said.
Smollett himself declined to address the court.
In 2019, Smollett claimed that two men confronted him on the street, and struck him with their hands and poured a chemical substance on him. The actor also said they tied a rope around his neck.
The incident sparked national outcry but just a few weeks into an investigation, Chicago police said they found that Smollett fabricated the incident and charge the actor with filing a false police report. Smollett faced up to three years in jail.
"Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," then Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters in February 2019. "I'm left hanging my head and asking why."
Johnson said that Smollett paid $3,500 to stage the attack on himself and "drag Chicago's reputation through the mud."
In court testimony in December, Smollett maintained his story and denied any allegations that he staged a fake attack. The jury found him guilty on five counts of felony disorderly conduct, but he was acquitted of a sixth count.
The sentencing will be the first time cameras are allowed in the courtroom during the case.