Court orders actor Jussie Smollett to be released from jail during appeal

Jussie Smollett raises his fist as he is led out of the courtroom
Jussie Smollett is led out of the courtroom after being sentenced on March 10 in Chicago.
(Brian Cassella / Associated Press)

Actor Jussie Smollett was ordered released from jail Wednesday by an appeals court that agreed with his lawyers that he should be released pending the appeal of his conviction for lying to police about a racist and homophobic attack.

The ruling came after a Cook County judge sentenced Smollett last week to immediately begin serving 150 days in jail for his conviction on five felony counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police. The appeals court said Smollett could be released after posting a personal recognizance bond of $150,000.

Smollett’s attorneys had argued that he would have completed the sentence by the time the appeal process was finished and that Smollett could be in danger of physical harm if he remained locked up in Cook County Jail.


The court’s decision marks the latest chapter in a strange story that began in January 2019 when Smollett, who is Black and gay, reported to Chicago police that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two men wearing ski masks. The manhunt for the attackers soon turned into an investigation of Smollett himself and his arrest on charges that he’d orchestrated the attack and lied to police about it.

“My prayer is that he is freed and put on house arrest and probation,” said actor Taraji P. Henson, who starred opposite Jussie Smollett in “Empire.”

March 14, 2022

The investigation revealed Smollett paid two men he knew from work on the TV show “Empire” to stage the attack.

A jury convicted Smollett in December on five felony counts of disorderly conduct — the charge filed when a person lies to police. He was acquitted on a sixth count. Judge James Linn sentenced Smollett last week to 150 days in jail, but with good behavior he can be released in as little as 75 days.

Smollett maintained his innocence during the trial. During sentencing he shouted at the judge that he was innocent, warning the judge that he was not suicidal and that if he died in custody, it was somebody else who would have taken his life.