CHICAGO — 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 after spending six nights behind bars. As he got in to an SUV, he didn’t comment.
Smollett, who was convicted of five counts each of disorderly conduct in lying to authorities, was sentenced by Cook County Judge last week. In an outburst immediately after the sentence was handed down, Smollett proclaimed his innocence and said “I am not suicidal. If anything does happen to me, it is not my fault. And you must all know that.”
The appeals court said Smollett could be released after posting a personal recognizance bond of $150,000, meaning he doesn’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.
“Let me make something clear: There is no room for politics in our court system and our appellate courts in this great state do not play politics,” Uche said.
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 in Cook County Jail.
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.
The court’s decision marks the latest chapter in a strange story that began in January 2019 when Smollett, who is Black and gay, reported to Chicago police that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two men wearing ski masks. The manhunt for the attackers soon turned into an investigation of Smollett himself and his arrest on charges that he’d orchestrated the attack and lied to police about it.
The investigation revealed Smollett paid two men he knew from work on the TV show “Empire” to stage the attack.
A jury convicted Smollett in December on five felony counts of disorderly conduct — the charge filed when a person lies to police. On a sixth count, he was cleared. Judge James Linn sentenced Smollett last week to 150 days in jail — with good behavior he could have been released in as little as 75 days.
During the trial, Smollett maintained that he was innocent. He shouted at judge during sentencing, claiming that he wasn’t guilty and that someone else would take his life if he dies in custody.
Uche stated that Jussie was the one who learned the news first. He said that he almost lost faith in America’s constitutional system. “I think he had nearly given up,” Uche said.
According to him, the next step is to appeal the verdict.
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