On Thursday, Smollett was sentenced to 150 days in jail, 30 months of felony probation and ordered to pay restitution and a fine by Cook County Judge James Linn after being found guilty in December of staging a racist and homophobic attack.
Prior to delivering the sentence, Linn told Smollett while the terms were “fashioned” just for him, it could not account for “the damage you’ve already done to your own life.”
On Instagram Sunday, Taraji P. Henson agreed the consequences to Smollett’s acting career were “punishment enough” and wrote that her former co-star should be freed.
Jussie Smollett sentencing:Actor sentenced to 150 days in jail for staging racist, homophobic attack and lying to police
“I am not here to debate you on his innocence but we can agree that the punishment does not fit the crime,” Henson wrote. “Emmett Till was brutally beat and ultimately murdered because of a lie and none of the people involved with his demise of him spent one day in jail, even after Carolyn Bryant (Donham) admitted that her claims were false.”
Till, a Black 14-year-old, was beaten to death in 1955 after Donham, a white Mississippi shopkeeper, said the teenager had grabbed and whistled at her. The woman’s then-husband and another man were charged with murder, but both were acquired by an all-white jury that year.
In 2017, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” written by Timothy B. Tysonquotes Donham admitting in 2008 that she wasn’t telling the truth when she made the claims.
Henson, the actress who portrayed Smollett’s on-screen mom Cookie Lyons on “Empire” continued: “My prayer is that he is freed and put on house arrest and probation because in this case that would seem fair. Please #freejussie.”
Smollett’s sister and “Lovecraft Country” actress also denounced her brother’s sentence on Saturday writing, “Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly five times the rate of White Americans.”
The Sentencing Project reported that finding in October 2021.
She added: “Jussie is innocent. And…you don’t have to believe in his innocence to believe he should be free. #FreeJussie #StopLockingUpOurPeople.”
Smollett, 39, was found guilty on five counts of disorderly conduct – one count for each separate time he was charged with lying to police in the days immediately after the alleged attack, which Smollett reported in January 2019.
Jussie Smollett timeline:Key moments of the case, from the alleged attack to his sentencing
Disorderly conduct is a class 4 felony that carries a sentence of up to three years in prison, but experts had predicted Smollett would likely be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service.
Comedian Trevor Noah also spoke against Smollett’s sentencing Friday, calling the actions he was found guilty of “dumb” but considered the consequences “crazy.”
“It’s crazy that he’s gonna spend more time in jail than the family who are mostly to blame for America’s opioid epidemic,” he wrote.
During the hearing Smollett’s attorneys also read letters from other supporters, including an organizer with Black Lives Matter, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and LaTanya and Samuel L Jacksonthat asked Linn to consider the case’s effect on Smollett’s life and career.
Several of Smollett’s supporters also spoke about worries that he would be at risk in prison, specifically mentioning his race, sexual orientation and his family’s Jewish heritage.
Following the verdict Smollett maintained his innocence as he stood up and said: “I am innocent, and I am not suicidal,” suggesting that “if anything happens” in jail, he did not take his own life. His 150-day sentence began immediately after Thursday’s hearing.
In a statement on Friday, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said Smollett is being held in protective custody — typical for people “who may potentially be at risk of harm due to the nature of their charges, their professions, or their noteworthy status.”
Contributing: Edward Segarra, John Bacon and Jerry Mitchell USA TODAY; Associated Press
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism