Attorneys for Jussie Smollett filed their appeal of his conviction on Wednesday, as they seek to keep him from having to go back to jail on hate crime hoax charges.
Smollett was released a year ago pending his appeal, after serving six days of his 150-day sentence. Attorneys for the former “Empire” actor were originally due to file his appellate brief last August, but have been granted five extensions of that deadline.
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Smollett was convicted in December 2021 of lying to police when he claimed to have been assaulted by two men who shouted homophobic and racist slurs, poured a chemical substance on him, and put a rope around his neck.
After initially treating the case as a genuine hate crime, Chicago detectives ultimately concluded that Smollett had paid two men $3,500 to stage the attack.
In the appellate brief, Smollett’s attorneys argue that the trial judge, James Linn, made a series of reversible errors, that the 150-day sentence is excessive, and that the entire prosecution should have been disallowed.
Linn delivered a blistering rebuke during sentencing, calling Smollett a “charlatan” who had shown himself to be “profoundly arrogant and selfish and narcissistic.” As he was being taken into custody, Smollett shouted “I am innocent and I am not suicidal.”
Smollett was initially indicted on 16 counts in 2019, but the state’s attorney’s office quickly dropped those charges. Following a community-wide outcry, another judge ordered the appointment of a special prosecutor who revived the charges.
Smollett’s defense has argued repeatedly that the second prosecution should have been barred under the principle of “double jeopardy.”
Smollett was also ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution to the Chicago Police Department for its overtime costs, and a $25,000 fine. The defense argues that Illinois law does not allow the police department to be considered a “victim,” and that therefore the restitution order should be overturned.
Smollett’s attorneys also argue that Linn’s hurried them along during their cross-examination at trial and made editorializing comments in front of the jury. The appellate brief argues that Linn’s comments during sentencing took on a “personal retributive tone.”
Smollett was written out of the final season of “Empire” in 2019. At sentencing, Smollett’s lawyers read letters of support from Black Lives Matter, Alfre Woodard, and Samuel L. Jackson and his wife, LaTanya Richardson Jackson.