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Jussie Smollett released from county jail during appeal | Celebrity News

CHICAGO (AP) — Jussie Smollett was released from prison Wednesday after six nights behind bars after an appeals court agreed with his lawyers that he should be free pending appeal of his conviction for lying to the police about a racist and homophobic attack.

The former “Empire” actor was released from Cook County Jail surrounded by security. He made no comment as he got into a waiting SUV, but his lawyers said Smollett, who is black and gay, was the target of a racist justice system and people doing politics.

The appeals court ruling came after a Cook County judge Smollett sentenced last week to immediately begin serving 150 days in prison for his conviction on five counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police. In an outburst immediately after sentencing, Smollett proclaimed his innocence and said, “I’m not suicidal. And if anything happens to me when I go in there, I don’t do it to myself. And you all should know that.

The appeals court said Smollett could be freed after posting a $150,000 personal bond, meaning he didn’t have to post any money but agrees to appear in court if necessary.

Smollett’s defense attorney, Nenye Uche, speaking to reporters outside the jail after Smollett’s departure, said the Smollett family was “very, very pleased with today’s developments”. Uche said that while in prison, Smollett did not eat and drank only water, although he did not say why.

He criticized the special prosecutor’s decision to re-indict Smollett after the original charges were dropped by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and he paid a fine. He also called Judge James Linn’s sentence excessive for a low-level crime, adding that the appeals court is “not playing politics”.

“The real question is: should black men be imprisoned for a class 4 crime? Shame on you if you think they should,” Uche said.

Special Prosecutor Dan Webb recommended that Smollett serve “an appropriate amount of time in prison” during the sentencing.

“His conduct denigrated hate crimes,” Webb said after the hearing. “His conduct will discourage other victims of hate crimes from coming forward and reporting these crimes to law enforcement.”

Smollett’s attorneys had argued that he would have served his sentence at the end of the appeal process and that Smollett could be in danger of physical harm if he remained locked up in the Cook County Jail.

The special prosecutor’s office called the allegation that Smollett’s health and safety was at risk “factually incorrect,” in response to his motion, noting that Smollett was being held at preventive dentention in jail.

The court ruling marks the latest chapter in a bizarre story that began in January 2019 when Smollett reported to Chicago police that he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two men wearing ski masks. The manhunt for the attackers quickly turned into an investigation into Smollett himself and his arrest for orchestrating the attack and lying to police about it.

Authorities said Smollett paid two men he knew from working on the TV show “Empire” to stage the attack. Prosecutors said he told them what racist and homophobic slurs to yell and yell that Smollett was in “MAGA Country,” a reference to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign slogan.

A jury convicted Smollett in December of five counts of disorderly conduct – the charge laid 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 – with good behavior he could have been released in as little as 75 days.

Smollett maintained his innocence during the trial. During sentencing, he shouted to the judge that he was innocent, warning him that he was not suicidal and that if he died in custody, it was someone else, not him, who would have committed suicide.

Uche said the first thing Jussie did upon hearing the news was push his hands on the glass between them and said he had almost given up hope in the US constitutional system. “I think he almost gave up,” Uche said.

He said the next step would be to appeal the verdict.

To verify Full AP coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.

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