Jussie Smollett out of jail pending appeal

Sentenced to five months in jail last week, Smollett spent just six days behind bars.

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Jussie Smollett walks out of Cook County Jail on Wednesday night.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Jussie Smollett was released from jail Wednesday night while he appeals his conviction for faking a 2019 hate crime.

The action, ordered by a three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeals, comes just six days after the actor was sentenced to five months behind bars. Smollett’s attorneys filed their appeal the same day, and the order was issued Wednesday, the day that Special Prosecutor Dan Webb’s team filed a lengthy response brief.

The court found that “the defendant has been convicted of non-violent offenses and that this court will be unable to dispose of the instant appeal before the defendant would have served his entire sentence of incarceration,” the order drafted by appellate justices Thomas E. Hoffman and Joy Cunningham states.

“It is hereby ordered that the motion of the defendant, Jussie Smollett, to stay his sentence of incarceration and to grant him a bond pending the disposition of his appeal or until further order of this court is granted.”

Appellate Justice Maureen Connors disagreed, stating only, “I dissent and would deny this motion.”

Webb could not be reached for comment.

Smollett walked out of Cook County Jail just after 8 p.m. surrounded by an entourage of men dressed in all black.

Smollett held a white button-down in one hand and a composition notebook in the other. He walked immediately to an SUV and did not answer any questions from the media.

Smollett’s defense team was “elated” about the news.

Jussie Smollett’s attorneys speak to reporters outside Cook County Jail after Smollett was released Wednesday.

Jussie Smollett’s attorneys speak to reporters outside Cook County Jail after Smollett was released Wednesday.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

“There is no room for politics in our court system, and our appellate courts in this great state do not play politics,” Smollett’s lawyer, Nenye Uche, said in a news conference outside the jail.

Uche said when Smollett learned he had been released, he pressed his hands to the glass and tearfully told him, “I nearly lost hope in our constitutional system.”

Smollett had not eaten anything since entering jail six days ago, according to Uche; he only drank ice-cold water.

Smollett's defense team said they will now get the wheels moving on the formal appeal process, as this ruling was the result of an emergency appeal.

The majority of criminal appeals cases in the Chicago-based First District take two or more years before a ruling is issued by the court. Moving the case to the state Supreme Court would potentially add even more years.

The actor previously spent a few hours in jail following his arraignment in 2019. He would not have had to post cash bond to secure his release.

Smollett has been held in “protective custody,” away from other inmates since he was taken to the jail following his sentencing hearing, where the actor loudly proclaimed his innocence and that he was not suicidal.

Smollett’s lawyers had challenged his conviction on five counts of disorderly conduct in post-trial motions and in a brief notice of appeal, offering up a laundry list of issues with the actor’s case. Judge James Linn last week ordered Smollett to begin a 30-month period of probation with five months in jail, and to pay $120,000 in restitution to the city of Chicago.

Among the issues raised by Smollett’s lawyers were arguments that the charges brought against Smollett by Special Prosecutor Dan Webb were double jeopardy, since Smollett had struck an unorthodox deal with State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office to drop the charges in exchange for the actor forfeiting the $10,000 bond he posted after his 2019 arrest and performing community service, and complaints about the jury selection process and jury instructions.

Jussie Smollett, center, sky-blue face mask, is flanked by a security detail while exiting Cook County Jail on Wednesday night.

Jussie Smollett, center, sky-blue face mask, is flanked by a security detail while exiting Cook County Jail on Wednesday night.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

“I am stunned, very surprised, to see the court grant [Smollett] an appeal bond,” said veteran Chicago lawyer Kulmeet “Bob” Galhotra, who said courts typically only allow a defendant to go free while an appeal is pending when the case seems likely to be overturned.

“I don’t see in anything I’ve read where there’s a very strong issue to appeal in this case ... so if he gets an appeal bond, all that means is he is out for two years and then has to go back to serve his 150 days,” he said.

Read the order below:

22-0322 ORDER 031622_0001 (1).pdf

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