A slew of celebrities are now speaking out against former Empire star Jussie Smollett’s hefty prison sentence. On Mar. 11, the 39-year-old was convicted of staging a hate crime against himself in 2019, and was ordered to serve 150 days in jail. The actor must also pay more than $120,000 in restitution to the city of Chicago.
Samuel L. Jackson, Taraji P. Henson and the star’s sister Jurnee Smollett, are among the big names who have argued against the harsh sentencing. According to The Independent, Jackson and his wife LaTanya Richardson Jackson wrote a letter to Illinois Judge James B. Linn requesting clemency for the star.
“It is my understanding that Jussie was convicted of Class 4, disorderly conduct, which to my understanding, people convicted of this offense historically are sentenced to various alternatives to incarceration,” the Star Wars alum and LaTanya wrote, noting that Smollett was from “a good family.”
“Jussie has already suffered a great deal of punishment, as this situation has destroyed his existing career and impugned his reputation,” they added.
“I am not here to debate you on his innocence but we can agree that the punishment does not fit the crime,” Henson argued, drawing similarities between Smollett’s conviction and the case of Emmett Till.
“Emmett Till was brutally beat and ultimately murdered because of a lie and none of the people involved with his demise spent one day in jail, even after Carolyn Bryant admitted that her claims were false. No one was hurt or killed during Jussie’s ordeal. He has already lost everything, EVERYTHING!” she continued.
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The Facebook Watch host also claimed the case caused Smollett to be ostracized from Hollywood.
“To me as an artist not able to create that in itself is punishment enough. He can’t get a job,” she added. “No one in Hollywood will hire him and again as an artist who loves to create, that is prison. My prayer is that he is freed and put on house arrest and probation because in this case that would seem fair. Please #freejussie.”
According to TMZ, Smollett’s prison sentence appears to be off to a rough start and his legal team is doing everything they can to get him out from behind bars.
On Monday, his legal reps filed an emergency motion requesting for the California native to be set free as he awaits his appeal. The Smollett family claims they have been receiving startling texts messages and phone calls from strangers threatening to harm the actor from inside the Cook County prison he’s being detained in. One call, in particular, was allegedly laced with “racist and homophobic slurs.” They believe the hateful threats could escalate to real-life violence if he isn’t released.
The star’s brother, Jocqui Smollett, took to social media over the weekend with more startling news, alleging that his brother was being held in the jail’s psych ward.
“What’s very concerning is that there was a note attached to the paperwork today, and it said on the front of his jail cell … that he is at risk of self-harm,” Jocqui explained in an emotional video post on Mar. 14.
“I want to just make it clear to folks that he is in no way shape or form at risk to self-harm and he wants to let folks know that, that he is very stable, he is very strong, he is very healthy and ready to take on the challenge that ultimately has been put up against him,” the sibling clarified.
“This is not right,” he added. “This is complete lack of justice. It’s angering, it’s an outrage.”
Following his prison sentence, Smollett must spend 30 months on felony probation. Additionally, the actor has been ordered to pay $25,000 in fines for committing the staged hoax.
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