Taraji P. Henson Defends Jussie Smollett, Calls for His Freedom – Billboard

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Jussie Smollett’s fellow Empire star Taraji P. Henson is coming to his defense after the actor was sentenced on Thursday (Mar. 10) to 150 days in jail for lying to police about a racist and homophobic attack that he orchestrated himself.

Henson took to Instagram on Monday (Mar. 14) to post a black screen with the hashtag #FreeJussie written in white. In the caption, the actress and comedian called for Smollett’s release. “I am not here to debate you on his innocence but we can agree that the punishment does not fit the crime,” she wrote, comparing the situation to  Emmett Till, who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, after being falsely accused of making advances toward a white woman in her family’s grocery store.

“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,” Henson wrote. “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.”

“My prayer is that he is freed and put on house arrest and probation because in this case that would seem fair,” she concluded.

On Thursday, Cook County Judge James Linn sentenced Smollett to 30 months of felony probation, including 150 days in the county jail. Linn denied a request to suspend Smollett’s sentence and ordered he be placed in custody immediately. Smollett was also ordered to pay $120,106 in restitution.

Smollett loudly proclaimed his innocence after the sentence. “I am innocent. I could have said I am guilty a long time ago,” Smollett shouted as sheriff’s deputies led him out of the courtroom, capping an hourslong sentencing hearing.

In December, Smollett was convicted in a trial that included the testimony of two brothers who told jurors Smollett paid them to carry out the attack, gave them money for the ski masks and rope, instructed them to fashion the rope into a noose. Prosecutors said he told them what racist and homophobic slurs to shout, and to yell that Smollett was in “MAGA Country,” a reference to the campaign slogan of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

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