Entertainment

Jussie Smollett’s team celebrates his release from prison

Jussie Smollett’s family and legal team are celebrating their “huge victory” that allowed the former “Empire” star to be released from jail Wednesday night after serving six days of his 150-day sentence for allegations he was arrested lied to the police about staging a racist and homophobic attack himself.

In the latest twist in the dramatic three-year case, an Illinois appeals court on Wednesday reduced Smollett’s prison time pending appeal. The 39-year-old actor left Cook County Jail in Chicago, where he was held immediately following a sensational March 10 hearing.

Smollett, who has maintained his innocence since the saga began in 2019 and claimed he was “not suicidal” during an outbreak at the courthouse last week, left the jail in silence around 8 p.m. local time. His face was covered by a surgical mask and he was flanked by security guards and one of his brothers. He was holding what appeared to be the white shirt he was wearing in his mug shot.

After he got into an SUV and left the prison, members of his defense team stayed to address the media. The Associated Press reported that his attorneys said Smollett was the target of a racist justice system and people who make politics.

Defense attorney Nenye Uche told the media that the actor only drank water and did not eat any food in prison, according to the deadline. Uche also said that Smollett “almost lost hope in our constitutional system” and that he believes his client “almost gave up” while he was “put in a cage for a Class 4 crime.”

“We have complained about the unequal treatment of African Americans in the justice system,” Uche said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “Regardless of what you think of this case… the real question is, should black men be sent to prison for a Class 4 crime? Shame on you if you think they should, that’s a shame.”

They had argued in court that his appeals process would exceed the time he had to spend in prison and that he could face physical or mental harm if he remained incarcerated.

A group of men leave a prison.

Jussie Smollett, center, leaves the Cook County Jail on Wednesday.

(Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

He was placed under protective custody in prison, but his lawyers and family say he was threatened behind bars – an issue Smollett alluded to during his sentencing eruption. (He would have been eligible for a good behavior loan and could have been fired as early as late May.)

Uche also took to Smollett’s official Instagram account — where the actor’s family has shared updates about his case and rallied support for the #FreeJussie movement — to celebrate Wednesday’s win.

“The basis of our call was very simple. We told the appeals court that Jussie should be released pending appeal because — frankly, I’ll put it in layman’s terms, not legal terms — the case sucks. The case is bogus against him,” Uche said in the video. “And they released him. And that says a lot about what the Court of Appeals thinks about this case.”

The appeals court said Smollett could be released after posting $150,000 personal acknowledgment bail, meaning he didn’t have to post any money but agreed to appear in court if necessary, the AP reported.

A three-judge panel was split 2-1 over whether to grant the motion, according to the Tribune on Wednesday. The two judges voted in favor because Smollett had never been convicted of a violent crime and would have served his sentence long before his appeal could be decided. In contrast, the third appellate judge wrote only that she would “deny this motion.”

Special Attorney Dan Webb opposed Smollett’s release, writing in a motion that the actor “relyed, at best, on half-truths and misleading statements to create an alleged emergency” in order to secure his release on bail.

Smollett’s attorneys said there were “serious constitutional issues” in his case and also asked the higher court to overturn Smollett’s December 2021 conviction on the grounds that this second prosecution violated his double jeopardy rights.

Smollett was convicted on five counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police about the alleged assault in January 2019 and acquitted on a sixth count.

“Now we still have a long fight ahead of us. Everyone should please please please pray,” Uche told Smollett’s 4.4 million followers on Instagram. “We won round 2. We want to win the remaining rounds and need your help and support.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-03-17/jussie-smollett-released-from-jail Jussie Smollett’s team celebrates his release from prison

Caroline Bleakley

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