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Former "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett was released from jail on bond Wednesday night after an appeals court decided he should be free while an appeal of his conviction plays out.
Smollett walked out of Cook County Jail around 8 p.m. Wednesday, surrounded by his security and members of his defense team, after spending six days behind bars for lying to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in 2019, Deadline reports.
Smollett didn’t address the surrounding media as he walked to a waiting SUV; however, his defense attorney Nenye Uche said that the Smollett family was “very, very happy with today’s developments,” according to the Associated Press.
He also told the crowd that while behind bars, Smollett did not eat anything and only drank water.
Smollett’s release came after an appellate court ruled in a 2-1 decision to grant an emergency motion to release Smollett from jail on a $150,000 personal recognizance bond, delaying his jail sentence until his appeal is determined.
Smollett did not have to put any money down but was required to agree that he will appear for upcoming court dates as the appeal of his felony conviction continues.
The appellate court agreed to grant the emergency motion because they determined they would be “unable to dispose of the instant appeal before the defendant would have served his entire sentence of incarceration,” according to CNN.
Prosecutors had opposed Smollett’s release arguing there was “no emergency that warrants the extraordinary relief” and rejected the defense’s contention that Smollett would have completed the sentence before the appeal could be decided as a valid argument.
“According to this logic, every defendant sentenced to a term of imprisonment less than a few years would automatically receive a stay pending appeal,” they wrote in court filings.
Smollett was sentenced by a Cook County judge last week to 150 days in jail for his conviction on five felony counts of disorderly conduct for the hoax. He was also sentenced to 30 months of felony probation, a $25,000 fine and ordered to pay more than $120,000 in restitution for staging the hate crime.
Before he was led off to begin serving his sentence, Smollett stood up from the defense table and proclaimed his innocence.
“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.
Smollett had spent time in protective custody at the jail prior to his release.
On Wednesday, Uche criticized the judge for handing down jail time for what he described as a low-level felony, calling it a “disgrace.”
“There is no room for politics in our court system,” he said, according to CNN. “Regardless of what you think about this case … the real question is, should Black men be walked into jail for a Class 4 felony?”
The case centers on a bizarre incident in 2019: Smollett claimed he had been attacked on the streets of Chicago by two men who had shouted racial and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him and tied a noose around his neck.
Police later concluded that Smollett’s claims had been a hoax orchestrated by the actor himself to gain publicity. According to investigators, Smollett paid two brothers—whom the actor had worked with on the “Empire” set—to carry out the attack and told them what to shout.
When handing down his jail sentence last week, Judge James Linn had slammed Smollett, saying the hoax had illuminated the actor’s “dark side.”
“You’re not a victim of a racial hate crime, you’re not a victim of a homophobic hate crime. You’re just a charlatan pretending to be a victim of a hate crime,” Linn said, according to the news outlet.
Smollett has continued to maintain his innocence.
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