“Let me tell you, Mr. Smollett, I know that there is nothing that I will do here today that can come close to the damage you have already done to your own life. You’ve turned your life upside down by your misconduct and shenanigans.
“You’ve destroyed your life as you knew it, and there’s nothing that any sentencing judge can do to you that could compare to the damage that you’ve already caused to yourself.”
“So who is Jussie Smollett? Who are you, and how out of all the people in the world did you get to be here, sitting in a court room in Chicago at a sentencing hearing convicted of faking, hoaxing racial and homophobic hate crimes? How in the world could this happen?
“Well, there are ironies in this case. The ironies are many and they are profound. And I’m talking about the testimony I heard under oath from Mr. Smollett, corroborated in large part by the precinct’s investigation.
“Mr Smollett chose to take the witness stand, which of course is his right. He took an oath and got on the witness stand, and the first thing he did was to introduce himself to the jury. He wanted the jury to know who he was and where he came from and what he was about. And I heard it on the witness stand, I heard it corroborated today by the witnesses that came and testified on his behalf.
“There’s no question that Mr. Smollett was born into a mixed-race family. His mom is an African-American woman, his dad was a white Jewish man. There were six siblings. And if we can say anything about this family—and we’re talking about a very, very tight-knit family, a village that was always in sync with each other, that cared about each other, was completely, wholly supportive of each other—you know that this family knew about matter of social justice more than anything else.
“That’s what the family stood for. It is part of the fabric of their existence. I know that Jussie Smollett grew up knowing to be sensitive to matters about racial discrimination, any type of discrimination, any kind of social injustice.”
“As a matter of fact, I’m learning more about it as we’re going on in the letters that I’ve been receiving and the testimony I’ve heard today. He’s been doing this all his life. He doesn’t just talk the talk, he’s walking the walk. He’s out there, he’s advocating, he’s involved in the community.
“He cares deeply about social justice issues. And for you now to sit here, convicted of hoaxing hate crimes, racial hate crimes and homophobic hate crimes, the hypocrisy is just astounding. I don’t know where to begin.
“I remember one thing that will always stick in my mind. I’ve been involved in so many trials over the years, but something happened in this trial that was remarkable and it talks about your sensitivity to issues of social justice.
“You’re on the witness stand, you’re being cross-examined, your liberty is at stake, it is your criminal trial. [Special prosecutor] Mr. [Dan] Webb is winding through some things on cross-examination and he’s going through some social media communications, whether it was Instagram or chat or text…
“Mr. Webb found a line that he wanted to confront you with. He said, ‘Did you say that he used a word starting with the letter N? Meet me at this place and at this time.’ I’m paraphrasing. And rather than just answer the question, which is what a witness is supposed to do and expected to do in their criminal trial, you stopped the proceedings.
“You said, ‘Mr. Webb, out of respect for all the African-American people in his courtroom, you should not be using that word.’ And I was amazed. I’m not talking about comparing and the gamesmanship that may go on between the prosecutor and the witness on the stand. That’s not why I’m recalling this event. But what I’m talking about is how sensitive you were to any kind of slight, that if the words come out of somebody else’s mouth you’re going to get up and speak up and complain about it and make sure that they know that they’re not behaving the way that you’re supposed to behave.
“So you know better than anybody else that these are serious matters. They’re serious to you—they’re clearly serious to you and your whole family. And for you to be here now, convicted of [faking] these hate crimes, it’s just astonishing.
“So why did this happen? That’s a good question—I think it’s the question on everybody’s mind. There’s some conjecture you did it for the money. Frankly, I do not believe you did it for the money. You were making, the evidence showed, close to $2 million a year when this happened. I don’t think money motivated you at all.”
“The only thing I can find is that you really craved the attention and you wanted to get the attention. And you were so invested in issues of social justice and you knew that this was a sore spot for everybody in this country.
“You knew this was a country that was slowly trying to heal from past injustices and current injustices and trying to make a better future for each other and it was a hard road. And you took some scabs off some healing wounds and you ripped them apart for what reason? You wanted to make yourself more famous, and for a while, it worked. Everybody was talking about you. The lights were on you.
“You were actually throwing a national pity party for yourself. Why would you do such a thing? I understand, you craved the attention so much, but why would you betray something like social justice issues, which you care so much about?
“The only thing I could conclude is that—and I acknowledge that there are wonderful sides to you, that there are very giving and charitable and loving sides to you. But you have another side of you that is profoundly arrogant and selfish and narcissistic. That’s the only thing that can be concluded. And that bad side of you came out during the course of all these events.”
“Hate crimes are the absolute worst. And I believe that you did damage to real hate crimes, to hate crime victims. There are people who are actual, genuine victims of hate crimes that you did damage to.
“These are people that have a difficult time coming forward, they may be distrustful, they may not want to bring it to the attention of the community or first responders, there may be some trepidation.
“I don’t know for sure how much damage there was, I don’t know how this is going to impact other people if they’re going to be hesitant to come forward because they’re going to think that they’re going to be accused of acting like you and doing a stunt as you pulled here.
“I don’t know if first responders are going to be more doubtful or skeptical of people that come forward, real victims of hate crime, because of what you did here. I’m hoping it’s not that way.
“One of the ironies in this case, and I find this pretty profound, I got letters from people that advocate about victims of hate crime their entire lives. They devote their lives to this, and I’m talking in particular, Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, Reverend Jesse Jackson, an icon here in Chicago. No introductions necessary.
“They devote their whole lives to addressing issues about social injustice and hate crimes. And they are here today, asking me to show you mercy and I take that seriously. I find it profound, I take it seriously. And I know that they’re in a better position than myself to educate the public about that topic, about the damage you’ve done to real victims of hate crime.
“And I am confident that because of all the attention you have garnered here on this case that there are going to seize the opportunity and they will educate the public and they’ll be talking about this.
“They’ll try to mitigate some of the damage that you’ve caused to real victims of hate crimes and they’re in a better position to do it than I am. I will defer, but I will acknowledge that you have done some real damage.”
“You did wake up in the morning, thinking that you were going to do something bad and something wrong… You have that dark side and this is what happened here. You premeditated this case to an extreme that’s amazing. You wrote a script. The script involved words. ‘Encounter me on the street, yell out Empire, N-word, F-word, you’re going to hit me, you’re going to beat me up, you’re going to put bleach on me, you’re going to put a noose around my neck.’
“It’s a script that you wrote. It’s not a good script… But it’s a script that you wrote. You picked out the actors. You chose the Osundairo brothers. Why did you do that? Because you knew them, you trusted them. They idolized you. You’re an established actor in a serious television production of Empire.”
“You’ve been lying and lying and lying about this case, and that’s why you’re here today. You want to fake an incident on the street to try and get some attention at work, try to have somebody else feel sorry for you, that would never have got you here.
“The problem was you lied to the police and you caused all kinds of consternation. You caused a major investigation to take place, which got many people involved and caused great distress throughout the city and throughout the entire community here. And that’s the problem. That’s why you’re here now. Those are the crimes you’re convicted of, not the shenanigans out there.”
You know people in high places, elected public officials. They reacted. You knew mainstream journalists. They reacted. You were front-page news. You were talked about in the halls of Congress. People were talking about making laws to prevent what happened to you happening to anybody else.
“People in mainstream media were decrying what happened. ‘What kind of country is this? How could they do this to Jussie? We know Jussie. He’s such a gentle guy.’ He’s the guy that was described to me by all the family and friends that I heard from today. And I believe that Jussie exists… They were giving you the pity party you wanted. All the attention is on you. People talk about social injustice, your name is coming up first…
“[For journalists and politicians] credibility is everything to them. And you didn’t care that you might be damaging it, because again, there’s a side of you that has this arrogance and selfishness and narcissism that’s just disgraceful.”
“You took away a lot of resources from other places, from other real victims of real crimes. You used up the police resources for your own benefit and that’s a big problem here.
“I’ve never seen, even in some murder cases, the amount of work that went into this investigation. You did exactly what you didn’t want to happen. They put so many police resources into this.
“When I say what you didn’t want to happen, is you never wanted this case to be solved. You thought that somehow you’d be able to skate by and nobody would ever know what really happened here. You’re going to walk away from this. And it did not go down like that at all, of course.
“So they solved the case. And what happened? Turns out you’re not the victim of a hate crime. You’re not the 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. And that’s shameful, especially from the family you were brought up with, with your family values. It’s so sad.”
“You are now a permanently convicted felon. Your family loves you and supports you… But you have to live with the fact that you really put them through a ringer. You embarrassed your valuable friends in high places, elected public officials, people in the media. You’ve embarrassed them. You have to live with that.
“I don’t know if those relationships can be repaired. You’ve become toxic in your own workplace. Your career, future is very uncertain at the very best. It was really on a rocket ship to success and now you’ve turned yourself into a riches to rags [story] and it’s so unfortunate.
“Your very name has become an adverb for lying, and I cannot imagine what can be worse than that… You’re the butt of jokes. Comedians, mainstream talk show hosts, they make jokes about you. They do sketches about you. I can’t imagine anything worse than that.
“This is all self-inflicted. These are things you did to yourself. This is self-damage. Some people may think that what you did is funny, that there’s some room for humor and jokes about it. But I assure you this court does not.
“I don’t think that there’s anything funny at all about hoaxing and faking racial hate crimes or hoaxing and faking homophobic hate crimes. I think that it’s disgraceful and there is nothing funny about it. There is no humor in what you did whatsoever, all because you’re selfish, arrogant, narcissistic, at least you have that side of you.”
“Your performance on the witness stand… This could only be described as pure perjury. You got on the witness stand. You didn’t have to. You did and you certainly have a right to. But you committed hour upon hour upon hour of pure perjury and I find all those to be ample factors that this court can decide that the things you did, that any kind of probationary sentence would deprecate the seriousness of the offense, that you need to go to the penitentiary. The record is clear and it would support it…
“I agree with what was told to me today—you can’t judge everybody by one bad thing they’ve done in their life. I don’t know if it’s the only bad thing, but it’s the only bad thing that I’m concerned about now. And you do have quite a record of real community service…
“I’m mindful of the pleas for mercy, particularly from people that are in the arena of dealing with social justice issues, that are seriously fighting—not playing around, not doing games like you were doing. But seriously fighting for matters involving hate crimes of all sorts. And they’re asking for mercy…
“So I’m trying to consider who you are as a person, how you got here, how somehow you strayed away from your family values, you let that dark, narcissistic, selfish, arrogant side come out. And you persisted with it for years in this case.”