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Disgraced actor Jussie Smollett consumed nothing but ice water during his six days in a Chicago jail, a lawyer claimed as the star was freed to begin his appeal.
Nenye Uche said Smollett had refused food during his stint at Cook County Jail, which ended less than a week into Smollett’s 150 day sentence on Wednesday.
Uche told reporters: ‘Ice water, that’s been his food and liquid. I can only imagine if I was in jail for something I didn’t do, I wouldn’t be eating.’
Smollett did not speak to confirm the claims as he left jail, and looked svelte in a smart black t-shirt and matching pants as he was flanked by bodyguards who walked him to a waiting SUV.
The performer was freed by an appeals panel so he could contest his conviction for faking a racist and homophobic hate crime in 2019.
Uche also told reporters how his client ‘nearly given up’ after his conviction, which saw him rage at a judge who jailed him, before spending four of his six days behind bars in a psychiatric unit.
He was freed after he posted the required $150,000 personal recognizance bond.
Uche also revealed that the actor put his hands on the glass separating him from his client when the news was broken to him, and reacted with ‘shock’.
‘He was shocked,’ said Uche. ‘He had nearly given up.’
Smollett spent just two of his days with the general jail population, and four in a psychiatric unit over fears for his mental wellbeing. Judges ruled that he should go free while his lawyers work on the appeal of his conviction on five felony counts of lying to police about a racist and homophobic attack three years ago. He was jailed for 150 days.
Jussie Smollett is seen being released from jail at 8pm on Wednesday night in Chicago
Smollett is guarded by his team as he leaves jail on Wednesday night
Smollett was flanked by five bodyguards as he walked free, surrounding him – one in front, and two on either side
Smollett’s bodyguards are seen clearing the way for the 39-year-old, who did not speak as he left jail
Uche, his lawyer, told the waiting press: ‘Obviously the Smollett family are very, very happy about this. We are elated.’
He then criticized the judge who presided over Smollett’s December trial, and who sentenced him on Thursday.
Uche accused Judge James Linn of having politicized the trial, and responded to the intense public interest in the case.
‘There is no room for politics in our court system, and our appellate courts do not play politics,’ said Uche.
He questioned whether Smollett should have been tried in the first place – noting that charges against him were dropped in March 2019, but filed again in February 2020.
‘I wondered to myself whether Chicago had seceeded from the union,’ said Uche.
‘Because in this country, you cannot try someone twice. It is unconstitutional to try someone twice.
‘Mr Smollett paid a $10,000 fine and did community service. There is no time machine to go back again and redo it.
‘Then you retry the case. You give him 150 days in jail, and restitution.’
Smollett, clasping a white bag of goods and wearing a light blue face mask, bows down in a gesture of thanks as he leaves jail
The actor is seen being briefed by his bodyguards before they all walked out of the jail in formation
Smollett is seen being escorted out of court and towards a waiting SUV
Smollett’s bodyguards kept the actor well protected as they left the jail
Uche claimed that Smollett was treated harshly because of his race.
‘Should black men be walked into jail with a class four felony?’ Uche asked.
‘Shame on you if you think so.
‘People are still trying to lock black men up and it’s a disgrace.
‘The judge spent a great deal of time chastising, berating my client. I had never seen that before. I was not happy with it.’
Another member of Smollett’s legal team, condemned the ‘draconian sentence,’ and echoed Uche’s claim that Smollett was tried twice for the same offense.
‘I hope every citizen of Chicago realizes how important this case is. Because it could be you,’ said Allen.
‘You should never, ever be tried again for something a second time.’
The appeal proceedings are continuing, and no date has yet been set for the hearing.
Smollett in his booking photo on Thursday
Appellate justices Thomas E. Hoffman and Joy Cunningham on Wednesday approved Smollett’s release.
‘The defendant has been convicted of non-violent offenses and that this court will be unable to dispose of the instant appeal before the defendant would have served his entire sentence of incarceration,’ they ruled.
‘It is hereby ordered that the motion of the defendant, Jussie Smollett, to stay his sentence of incarceration and to grant him a bond pending the disposition of his appeal or until further order of this court is granted.’
A third judge, Maureen Connors, disagreed, writing: ‘I dissent and would deny this motion.’
Smollett’s lawyers had also argued in an emergency order that he was ‘immunocompromised’ and submitted a letter from a doctor saying the risk of Covid-19 should be factored in his release.
It is unclear what disease he is suffering from that puts him at risk of complications should he contract the virus.
Special prosecutor Dan Webb had asked the panel to deny the release request, calling it illogical and saying the claims that Smollett’s health was in jeopardy were ‘factually incorrect.’
‘Rather than attempt to meet his burden of showing good cause for his immediate release, Mr. Smollett makes only cursory, woefully undeveloped arguments,’ deputy special prosecutor Sean Wieber wrote.
Smollett, who has been serving his time in psychiatric care, was sentenced to 150 days behind bars.
Jussie Smollett will be released from jail after just six days behind bars
Jussie Smollett was sentenced to 150 days in jail last week (above) for orchestrating a fake racist attack against himself in 2019. He maintains his innocence and says he’s being treated unfairly by the justice system
At the beginning of the week, his lawyers submitted an emergency motion in appellate court that included a note from a doctor.
The physician said that Smollett has ‘compromised immunity’ and should be released because of the COVID-19 pandemic, though he didn’t clarify what makes Smollett immunocompromised.
On Tuesday, the fallen actor was moved out of the psych ward where he had been forced to sleep on a ‘restraint bed’ and into general population in the detention center.
The actor’s lawyers had argued to the panel of judges that his sentence would be fully served by the time the appeals process was completed.
Smollet’s release is just another bizarre twist on a strange story of the former Empire actor found guilty of trying to raise his profile by fabricating a hate crime against himself.
In January 2019, Smollett, who is black and gay, told Chicago police that he was attacked by two men wearing ski masks making racist and homophobic remarks.
After a brief manhunt, police turned their focus on Smollett who they said paid two Nigerian-American brothers who he knew from the TV show to stage the attack.
He was convicted in December on five counts of disorderly conduct due to misleading the cops. He was acquitted of a sixth count.
Judge James Linn sentenced him to 150 days with the chance of reducing his incarceration to 75 days with good behavior.
Smollett’s theatrics continued even through his sentencing when he shouted to the judge that he was innocent, and that if he died behind bars it would not be suicide, but murder.
Smollett and his family have been protesting his sentencing saying the length of his prison stay was proof of racism in the criminal justice system.
Taraji P Henderson – who played Smollett’s mother Cookie on the Fox drama – said the sentence was too harsh, likening it to the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till, in an Instagram post.
#FREEJUSSIE in white letters on a black background were posted on her social media account.
‘I am not here to debate you on his innocence but we can agree that the punishment does not fit the crime,’ she wrote.
TIMELINE OF JUSSIE SMOLLETT SAGA FROM FIRST CALL TO COPS TO HIS SENTENCING
January 29, 2019: Smollett tells police he was attacked at around 2am while walking home from Subway. He says his attackers were white or light-skinned, and that they put a noose around his neck and yelled racial and homophobic slurs
Smollett, on police bodycam, shows police the noose around his neck that he claimed his attackers put there
January 30: Details are leaked to the public and Smollett wins a groundswell of support. Chicago PD vows a swift investigation to find the attackers
February 2: Smollett opens a concert in West Hollywood, California, with an emotional speech, saying he had to play the show because he couldn’t let his attackers win.
February 13: Unbeknownst to the public, Chicago PD investigators have zeroed in on the brothers after reviewing surveillance footage from the night of the attack and Lyft and Uber records. They pick up the brothers at the airport as they return from Nigeria.
They are released without charge.
By then, stories had leaked from Chicago PD that some suspected Smollett of lying.
February 14: Jussie Smollett appears on Good Morning America to tearfully protest that he is telling the truth.
Robin Roberts shows him surveillance footage from the night of the attack and he says definitively that the men shown are his attackers
February 19: Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recuses herself from the case because of her contact with Smollett’s family
February 20: Smollett is charged with filing a false police report
February 21: Smollett surrenders to police but maintains his innocence
February 22: Smollett’s character is removed from Empire
March 7: A grand jury returns 16-count indictment charging Smollett with lying to cops repeatedly
March 26: Charges against Smollett are dramatically dropped. The decision sparks public outrage
March 28: The City of Chicago says it will sue Smollett for $140,000 in wasted police resources
April 23: Abel and Ola Osundairo file lawsuit against Smollett’s lawyers who called them liars on TV
August 23: Former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb named as special prosecutor to investigate why charges against Smollett were dropped
Feb 11, 2020: Smollett is indicted by a grand jury on six counts of felony lying to police
February 24 2020: Smollett pleads not guilty
November 29, 2021: After an 18-month break due to COVID-19 affecting courts, Smollett’s trial finally begins in Chicago
Dec. 6 2021: Smollett testifies at trial insisting he is telling the truth
December 9: Smollett is convicted on five of the six counts of lying to police
March 10 2022: Smollett is sentenced
Inside the Cook County jail where Jussie Smollett lived with 6,000 inmates: Cramped dorms, riots in the mess hall and limited visits for inmates
For the last three years, actor Jussie Smollett has been the martyr star of a long drawn-out, legal circus.
But on Friday morning, the 39-year-old woke up as inmate #20220310140, one of 6,000 convicts and suspects in the Cook County Jail, serving the first day of a 150-day sentence for lying to police.
On March 10, Smollett – once a darling of the music and TV world for his success on the show Empire – was sentenced to 150 days in jail. He was freed on Wednesday after just six days inside – four of which were spent on a psychiatric unit over fears for his mental health.
The star was convicted last year of five, felony four counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police repeatedly in January and February 2019, when he claimed he was the victim of a race hate attack.
Judge James Linn granted Smollett ‘day for day’ eligibility which means if he behaves himself behind bars, he will likely be released within 75 days – just over two months.
Because of the low-level, non-violent nature of Smollett’s crimes, he will not serve his time in a state prison.
He is being housed instead for the two-and-a-half months in the Cook County Jail, a stone’s throw from the court and one of the biggest jail complexes in the country.
He is currently being held in Division Eight – which is predominantly reserved for inmates with injuries or illness. It remains unclear if he will serve the duration of his sentence there, or if he will be moved after undergoing health checks.
Smollett will not receive visitors today. Visitation for inmates in Section 2E of Unit 8 – where records show he is now – begins tomorrow, at 2.30pm. Division 8 is what is known as a Residential Treatment Unit. It is a two-wing facility and made headlines recently for a COVID outbreak which killed three inmates.
Cook County Jail mostly houses suspects who are awaiting trial or convicts awaiting sentencing so there is a variety of violent and non-violent suspects and convicts in the population.
Those whose their sentences there have been given considerably light ones of two years or less.
Several sections of the jail have enormous dormitories where hundreds of men sleep in bunk beds lined up, row to row. There are individualized cell blocks, for more violent or at-risk offenders.
During a New York Times visit to the jail for a 2017 feature on how it had been upgraded, one inmate repeatedly stabbed two others.
An exterior view of Cook County Jail, where Smollett has begun his 150-day sentence. He will likely be let out after 75 days, if he behaves, and is currently being held in Division 8 – the medical unit. The prison has 6,000 inmates who are either serving sentences of under two years, or are awaiting trial
An aerial view of the enormous Cook County Jail complex where more than 6,000 inmates are spread across more than a dozen units, awaiting sentencing or trial dates or serving sentences
The worst of the jail: A solitary confinement cell in the Cook County Jail. Jussie is not likely to be placed in one of these cells
Inside the prison, there are cramped dorm rooms where hundreds of non-violent offenders sleep side by side in bunk beds. Smollett was convicted of five, non-violent felonies. It is unclear if he will have to sleep in a dorm, or if he’ll be put in a cell
A cell block in another portion of the jail. The locked cells are reserved for more violent offenders
These are the cells in Division 8- the medical unit where Smollett is currently being held
In this Sept. 29, 2011 file photo, inmates at the Cook County Jail in Chicago wait to be processed for release. Jussie will have to spend at least half of his 150 day sentence
In this Sept. 29, 2011 file photo, inmates at the Cook County Jail in Chicago, line up to be processed for release
The star was convicted in December of five counts of felony four disorderly conduct – the lowest level of felony in Illinois.
Facing a maximum sentence of three years, his attorneys yesterday begged for a non-custodial sentence and enlisted Hollywood heavyweights Samuel L. Jackson and Alfre Woodard to plead their case.
It wasn’t enough to persuade Judge James Linn against imposing jail time.
After patiently listening to Smollett’s attorneys blame the jury, the media and the prosecutors for his conviction, Linn imposed a 150-day sentence and blasted Smollett’s ‘astounding hypocrisy’.
The actor has claimed throughout that he is the victim of a racist and homophobic campaign by the Chicago Police Department and prosecutor’s office.
He blamed former Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson – who is black – for going after him, and his brother yesterday fumed at assistant special prosecutor Samuel Mendenhall – who is also black – that they didn’t need a ‘lecture in racism’.
In 2018, a violent brawl erupted in the mess hall where dozens of inmates started viciously fighting at the bottom of the stairs
A plea for help is written on a window of the maximum security unit of the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois, USA, 10 April 2020. In January 2022, more than 800 inmates and staff tested positive for COVID
The COVID-19 quarantine tier with single cells at Division 11 of the Cook County Jail in Chicago on May 20, 2020
Smollett is currently being held in Division 8, the medical unit. It’s unclear if he will be allowed to stay there
As he was led away in handcuffs, Smollett tore off his COVID-mask and screamed that if anything happened to him in custody it was at someone else’s hand.
He and his supporters say he is being unfairly punished because of his celebrity and that anyone else would have spared jail for the crimes he was convicted of.
He still maintains that he was telling the truth when he claimed to have been beaten up by two white Trump supporters in January 2019.
A jury unanimously convicted him of lying. They found that the evidence showed he had in fact paid his two black friends, brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo, to rough him up in a staged attack.
Police at the time suggested it was to raise his celebrity profile.