Jussie Smollett released from county jail during appeal

Jussie Smollett was released from jail Wednesday after an appeals court agreed with his lawyers that he should be free pending the appeal of his conviction for lying to police about a racist and homophobic attack.

Smollett walked out of the Cook County Jail Wednesday evening, surrounded by security, and did not comment as he got into an awaiting SUV.

The appeals court ruling came after a Cook County judge sentenced Smollett last week to immediately begin serving 150 days in jail for his conviction on five felony counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police. The appeals court said Smollett could be released after posting a personal recognizance bond of $150,000, meaning he doesn’t have to put down money but agrees to come to court as required.

Smollett’s attorneys had argued that he would have completed the sentence by the time the appeal process was completed and that Smollett could be in danger of physical harm if he remained locked up in Cook County Jail.

The office of the special prosecutor called the claim that Smollett’s health and safety were at risk “factually incorrect,” in a response to his motion, noting that Smollett was being held in protective custody at the jail.

The court’s decision marks the latest chapter in a strange story that began in January 2019 when Smollett, who is Black and gay, reported to Chicago police that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two men wearing ski masks. The manhunt for the attackers soon turned into an investigation of Smollett himself and his arrest on charges that he’d orchestrated the attack and lied to police about it.

The investigation revealed Smollett paid two men he knew from work on the TV show “Empire” to stage the attack.

A jury convicted Smollett in December on five felony counts of disorderly conduct — the charge filed when a person lies to police. He was acquitted on a sixth count. Judge James Linn sentenced Smollett last week to 150 days in jail — with good behavior he could have been released in as little as 75 days.

Smollett maintained his innocence during the trial. During sentencing he shouted at the judge that he was innocent, warning the judge that he was not suicidal and if he died in custody it was somebody else, and not him, who would have taken his life.

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Check out The AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.

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