Jussie Smollett became overcome with emotion during his sentencing hearing for his 2019 hate crime hoax case. The former Empire star is facing three years in prison after he was found guilty on five of six counts of disorderly conduct, a Class 4 felony, for falsely reporting a hate crime to the police. His sentencing, which is taking place in real time on Thursday, Mar. 10, featured testimony from family and friends who are asking that he not serve any jail time. In Jan. 2019, Smollett alleged he was beaten and had bleach thrown on him by two white attackers screaming "MAGA country." It was later discovered that Smollett allegedly orchestrated the attack and paid two Nigerian brothers $3,500 to act it out. The motivation was allegedly Smollett being upset over hate mail he was reportedly sent to the set of his FOX drama series that he felt the network executives didn't take seriously.
Among those who spoke in his defense was his oldest brother, Joel. Instead of taking the stand, Joel spoke to the judge about the history of racism and blasted the prosecution from the podium. Daily Mail reports that Joel told the Black assistant prosecutor that Smollett's case was the modern day version of Al Capone's.
Joel then told the judge that Smollett's conviction was unfair, stating: "The crime he has been accused of is not even considered a felony in most states," he said. "We are currently living in a time where we are enduring a vicious pandemic, a major conflict in eastern Europe as human beings we are worn down but Jussie Smollett is not at the source of the socio-economic problems on earth."
Smollett's 92-year-old grandmother, Molly, also spoke. She condemned the media for what she considers to be unfair and incorrect reporting. "The Jussie I know and love does not match up to the media's betrayal," she said. "You have not done a good job of investigative reporting. You've got to do better, I challenge you to do more." Molly asked the judge to send her to jail with Jussie if a prison sentence is imposed.
Two friends also spoke on Smollett's behalf: Richard Daniels, the music director from Empire, and Sharon Gelmen, the former director of a charity that the actor worked for as an assistant. They smoke to Smollett's good character. Written letters of support from Rev. Jessie Jackson, actor Samuel L. Jackson, and the president of the NAACP were presented to the judge asking for him to have leniency on Smollett.
Smollett has maintained his innocence, alleging the two brothers tried to extort millions of dollars from him. His lawyers plan to appeal the conviction.