Jurnee Smollett Defends Brother Jussie With Plea to Authorities Urging Them to 'Free' Former 'Empire' Star

Birds of Prey star Jurnee Smollett is breaking her silence on her brother Jussie's 150-day jail sentence. Jussie, a former star of the FOX musical drama Empire, was found guilty of a Class 4 felony of reporting a fake hate crime. In Jan. 2019, Jussie told Chicago PD that he was the victim of a brutal racist and homophobic attack. As it turns out, Jussie reportedly paid two Nigerian brothers to orchestrate the fake attack. Chicago PD claimed they spent $130,000 in police overtime dedicated to the case. In addition to the 150-day jail sentence, which he began immediately after sentencing, Jussie was sentenced to three years of probation, restitution of $120,000 and a $25,000 fine. Jussie claims he's innocent and his legal team plans to appeal the verdict. His family has been by his side throughout the ordeal. Now Jurnee is speaking out on social media.

"Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly five times the rate of White Americans. Jussie is innocent,"Jurnee captioned a post. "And…you don't have to believe in his innocence to believe he should be free. #FreeJussie #StopLockingUpOurPeople."

At the sentencing, Jussie's brother Joel spoke on the racist history of the U.S.'s justice system. The Smolletts' 90-year-old grandmother Molly also spoke, condemning the media for their coverage. Molly asked the media to do better, claiming their reports were false and they didn't do the proper research. 

Jussie also addressed the courtroom after the judge in the case admitted that jail time in such cases for non-violent first-offenders is rare, but due to the circumstances, he felt jail time was appropriate. The judge called Jussie arrogant and narcissistic. 

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While Jussie says he respects the judge's decision, he disagrees. He believes he's only in jail due to the color of his skin. "I am not suicidal. If anything happens to me in [jail], I did not do it," he exclaimed as he was led out of the courtroom upon sentencing with his fist in the air. "I am not suicidal, I am innocent!"