Jussie Smollett was released Wednesday from Chicago’s Cook County Jail, less than a week after the former Empire star was sentenced to 150 days behind bars for lying to police about staging his own hate crime in 2019. It’s the latest twist in a bizarre, three-year legal saga for Smollett.
Live video from WGN-TV showed Smollett walking out the jail, surrounded by bodyguards, at about 8 p.m. (See it about 49 minutes into the video.) His attorney, Nenye Uche, told reporters on the scene that the Smollett family was “very, very happy.”
An Illinois appeals court voted 2-1 to allow Smollett to go free on a $150,000 recognizance bond while he appeals his conviction. Smollett won’t have to pay that amount but agrees to appear in court as ordered. A video message from Uche posted on Smollett’s Instagram account declared the ruling a “huge win in what will be a longer road ahead” and proclaimed, “Jussie is coming home tonight.”
Smollett’s lawyers filed an emergency motion to stay his sentence. The actor, who is Black and gay, was convicted on five felony counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime. He was acquitted on a sixth count. Smollett has maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal.
In a filing on March 11, Smollett’s attorneys argued he’s the “target of vicious threats in social media forums which reflects the hatred and wish for physical harm” towards the entertainer, “which he may experience during incarceration.” They said if he was in segregated incarceration or protected custody while in jail, it could “cause extraordinary damage to his mental health.” The filing also noted the actor’s “compromised immune system” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Smollett’s lawyers additionally claimed that by the time the case went through the entire appeals process, Smollett will have been incarcerated for his full sentence.
“The case is bogus against him,” Uche said in Wednesday’s Instagram statement, adding that the decision to release Smollett bodes well for the actor’s ultimate fate. “Right now, we won Round 2. We want to win the remaining rounds.”
Smollett did not speak during last week’s hearing, but after he was sentenced to jail time, he yelled out in court that he’s “innocent” and “not suicidal.”
“Your honor, I respect you and I respect the jury, but I did not do this and I am not suicidal,” he said in an outburst. “If anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it to myself and you must all know that. I respect you, your honor. I respect your decision. … I am not suicidal.”
One day after Smollett began his jail sentence, the actor’s family said they were bombarded with threatening, harassing, and racist phone calls about the harm that would be done to him behind bars.
Judge James B. Linn, who scolded Smollett during last week’s hearing, also sentenced the actor to 30 months’ felony probation, ordered him to pay $120,106 of restitution to the city of Chicago and pay $25,000 fine.
MORE: Jussie Smollett begins jail sentence