Beleaguered actor Jussie Smollett was recently sentenced to 150 days in county jail and ordered to pay a $25K fine for “staging a hate crime.” The 39-year-old actor also received a $120K bill from the city of Chicago and will have two-and-a-half years probation, per the Associated Press, and a number of celebrities are now protesting the severity of Smollet’s punishment. And one of his loudest advocates, Smollet’s former Empire co-star Taraji P. Henson, is asking why he received such a sentence while the murderers of Emmett Till were free to walk.
“I am not here to debate you on his innocence but we can agree that the punishment does not fit the crime,” Henson posted to her Instagram page on Sunday. “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.”
After Smollet received his sentence this past Thursday, he erupted in the courtroom and continued to maintain his innocence. “If I did this, then it means that I stuck my fist in the fears of Black Americans in this country for over 400 years and the fears of the LGBT community,” Smollett he shouted.
He then inferred that any harm that befalls him in Cook County Jail will not be by his his own hand. “Your Honor, I respect you and I respect the jury but I did not do this. And I am not suicidal. And if anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it to myself. And you must all know that.”
His 92-year-old grandmother Molly Smollett pled for leniency on his behalf. “I ask you, judge, not to send him to prison,” she begged. She then asked, “If you do, send me along with him, OK?”
Immediately, questions arose with regard to Smollett’s mental state, and he was placed in a psychiatric ward for observation. But Smollett’s brother Jocqui said that Jussie was later transferred to a standard jail cell and that the family is managing Jussie’s social media for now.
According to TMZ, the actor was not surprised that he would receive jail time. In fact, the outlet reported that Smollett knew he would be penalized this way for a non-violent offense simply because he is Black. And there appears to be other personalities besides Henson who agree.
Jurnee Smollett, Jussie’s younger sister, believes he’s not guilty. On IG, she referenced the disproportionate rate at which Black Americans are locked up versus their White counterparts. “And…you don’t have to believe in his innocence to believe he should be free,” she wrote.
Samuel L. Jackson and his wife LaTanya also reached out to Judge James Linn prior to Smollett’s sentencing. “We have often broken bread with this young man as we discussed the right and wrong ways to live,” the pair wrote,. “Jussie comes from a good family whom we are proud to know intimately and who we know stand ready to provide the support and monitoring assistance that they can provide for him in an alternative probation scenario.” They further stated that he’s already suffered enough to his reputation.
Even talk show host Trevor Noah tweeted about the subject. Although his message suggested that Smollett may not be as innocent as he claims, the comedian clearly doesn’t believe the punishment fits the alleged crime. “What Jussie Smollett did was dumb as hell,” he wrote. “But 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.”