Empire's Jussie Smollett Sentenced to Five Months in Jail for Hate Crime Hoax

Jussie Smollett Guilty, Sentencing

Former Empire star Jussie Smollett has been sentenced to five months in jail after he was previously found guilty on five of six felony charges stemming from a false police report he filed in 2019.

Smollett was also sentenced to 30 months of felony probation and was fined $25,000. He’ll have to pay more than $120,000 in restitution as well.

“I believe that you did damage to real hate crimes — to hate crime victims,” Judge James Linn told Smollett before announcing his sentence.

After about a week of testimony at Smollett’s trial, which began Nov. 29, the case against him went to the jury on Dec. 9, for what would be nine total hours of deliberations.

Smollett claimed on Jan. 29, 2019 — days after a threatening, racist and homophobic letter was allegedly sent to him at the Chicago studio where Empire filmed — that he had been beaten up that morning by two men who hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him. He claimed his attackers tied a rope around his neck, doused him with an “unknown substance” and warned him that he was in “MAGA country.”

Weeks later, Smollett was accused of, among other things, fabricating the attack, and thus charged with filing a false police report. (Chicago Police superintendent Eddie Johnson said at the time that Smollett staged the attack because he was unhappy with his Empire salary and sought publicity. To that end, Smollett paid two brothers, one of whom worked on Empire, to help stage the attack.)

Those charges were eventually dropped by prosecutors, but in February 2020, after a special prosecutor looked into the case, a grand jury delivered a new, six-count indictment against Smollett.

Smollett pled not guilty to the six counts of disorderly conduct (which are covered by a section of the law that prohibits false reports to police). Though lesser, Class 4 felonies, convictions could have carried potential prison time of up to three years.

The sixth felony count, on which Smollett was found not guilty, charged him with reporting that he’d been a victim of an aggravated battery.

Smollett, who played Lucious’ musician son Jamal on Fox’s Empire, was written out of the final episodes of Season 5 following the headline-grabbing brush with the law. When the show was renewed for sixth and final season in May 2020, the network extended his contract but said there were “no plans” to bring him back — and he never returned.