Indya Moore and Taraji P Henson call for Jussie Smollett to be freed: ‘The punishment doesn’t fit’
“Free Jussie Smollett,” said celebrities including Indya Moore, Taraji P Henson and Trever Noah, after the actor was jailed for falsely reporting that he was the victim of a hate crime.
The actor’s Empire co-stars, among others, have defended him after he was sentenced to 30 months of felony probation, including 150 days in jail, arguing that “the punishment does not fit the crime”.
Jussie Smollett, 39, said he was the victim of a hate crime in 2019, claiming that two men shouted homophobic, racist slurs, beat him and looped a makeshift noose around his neck.
He was later convicted of organising the “attack” himself. In December last year, a jury found Smollett guilty of five charges of disorderly conduct. He was also ordered to pay $145,000 in fines and restitution.
Many have used the hashtag #FreeJussie to express their belief that he has been sentenced too harshly.
Taraji P Henson, who starred in Empire alongside Smollett, said that while she is “not here to debate you on his innocence”, she believes house arrest and probation would be a more fitting punishment.
She also drew parallels with the case of Emmett Till, a Black teen who was lynched at the age of 14 in 1955, after being falsely accused of flirting with a white woman.
She said on Instagram: “We can agree that the punishment does not fit the crime. Emmett Till was brutally beat and ultimately murdered because of a lie, and none of the people involved with his demise spent one day in jail, even after Carolyn Bryant admitted that her claims were false.
“No one was hurt or killed during Jussie’s ordeal. He has already lost everything, EVERYTHING! To me as an artist not able to create that in itself is punishment enough.
“He can’t get a job. No one in Hollywood will hire him and again as an artist who loves to create, that is prison.”
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Indya Moore addressed Jussie Smollett directly on Instagram, saying: “I recognise that you are so strong, beyond measure and external foresight. You are so brave.
“I believe in you to salvage life saving, spiritual wisdoms of abundance, power and truth out of this bafflingly unjust, and detrimental challenge. You should not be in jail.”
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Trevor Noah, comedian and host of The Daily Show, also commented on Smollett’s sentencing, calling his alleged crime “dumb as hell”.
“But it’s crazy that he’s gonna spend more time in jail than the family who are mostly to blame for America’s opioid epidemic,” he added.
What Jussie Smollett did was dumb as hell. But it’s crazy that he’s gonna spend more time in jail than the family who are mostly to blame for America’s opioid epidemic.?— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) March 11, 2022
At Jussie Smollett’s sentencing on 10 March, the actor maintained his innocence.
Speaking at the sentencing, he said: “If I did this, then it means that I stuck my fist in the fears of Black Americans in this country for over 400 years and the fears of the LGBTQ community.
“Your honour, I respect you and I respect the jury, but I did not do this, and I am not suicidal.”
On behalf of the Chicago Police Department and superintendent David Brown, attorney Joe McMahon read a victim impact statement, citing the cost and overtime hours incurred in the investigation of Smollett’s false report.
He added that this “false report made it less likely that real victims will come forward and will continue to suffer in silence”.
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