Samuel L Jackson leads pleas for clemency for Jussie Smollett at sentencing for faking attack

Peony Hirwani©

Samuel L Jackson and Alfre Woodard were among the celebrities who voiced their support for Jussie Smollett prior to his sentencing on Thursday.

The 39-year-old Empire star was handed a 150-day prison sentence for “selfishly, arrogantly and narcissistically” staging a hate crime hoax that the judge said had “destroyed his life” and was designed solely to satisfy his “craving” for attention.

Smollett was accused of lying to city police about a racist and homophobic attack in downtown Chicago in the early hours of 29 January 2019 by masked MAGA supporters.

Right before his sentencing, the court heard character witnesses from Jackson and his wife LaTanya Richardson Jackson, in the form of a letter they wrote to judge James B Linn.

Their letter asked Judge Linn to have mercy on the actor and find an alternative to imprisoning him.

A letter from Woodard was read out during the Thursday hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago as well.

“It is with the respect of knowing this, that I humbly implore you to please find an alternative to incarceration for Jussie Smollett,” the couple wrote in the letter.

“It is my understanding that Jussie was convicted of Class 4, disorderly conduct, which to my understanding, people convicted of this offence historically are sentenced to various alternatives to incarceration.”

In the letter, Jackson vouched for Smollett and said that he “comes from a good family”.

“We have often broken bread with this young man as we discussed the right and wrong ways to live,” said the letter.

“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.”

The Avengers: Endgame actor told the judge that he thinks Smollett has suffered enough already.

“Jussie has already suffered a great deal of punishment, as this situation has destroyed his existing career and impugned his reputation,” Jackson and his wife wrote.

“Please Judge Linn, in God’s name, please save this young man and allow him to be of service. Jussie Smollett is worth the risk and the investment.”

Apart from being sentenced to 150 days in prison, Smollett was also given a 30-month probation and ordered to pay $120,106 (£91,700) in restitution and $25,000 (£19,000) in fines.

After the sentence was passed, an emotional Smollett stood and repeatedly said: “I am not suicidal, I am not suicidal.”

He continued: “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 LGBTQ community.

“Your honour, 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,” he said.

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