CHICAGO – Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett will serve his five-month sentence in Cook County Jail under protective custody, court records show.
Judge James Linn approved a request submitted by Smollett’s lawyers on Thursday that the 39-year-old be held alone in a cell that is constantly monitored by cameras and guards.
The action is neither unexpected nor unusual: high-level inmates and other at-risk inmates are usually kept separate from the general prison population.
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The Cook County Sheriff‘s Office said Smollett would be housed in his own cell “monitored by security cameras in the cell and by an officer wearing a body-worn camera who is stationed at the entrance to the cell to ensure that Mr. Smollett is under direct supervision. sighting at any time. »
He will be allowed “substantial time” away from his cell in the common areas of his floor, and will be able to “use the telephone, watch television and interact with staff”, the office said.
However, “during these out-of-cell times, other inmates will not be present in the common areas,” the office added.
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The sheriff’s office said Smollett was not being held in solitary confinement, adding that solitary confinement was abolished at the Cook County Jail in 2016.
Smollett was sentenced to 30 months probation on Thursday, with Judge James Linn ordering him to serve the first 150 days behind bars, as well as pay a $25,000 fine and $120,000 to the City of Chicago in compensation for the cost of the thorough investigation of his forgery. complaints.
Smollett will likely only serve 75 days in custody because he is entitled to “day-to-day” credit for time spent in custody.
After Linn handed down his sentence on Thursday night, Smollett began shouting that he was both innocent and not suicidal. “And if anything happens to me when I walk in there, I haven’t done it to myself. And you all need to know that,” Smollett shouted as he was led away by deputies.
Smollett asked to be taken into custody and Linn signed an order requesting it, according to court documents filed after the hearing. The decision, however, ultimately rests with the sheriff’s office, which runs the jail and has wide latitude in how it manages the population of just over 6,000 inmates.
Smollett’s outburst – and concerns expressed by his lawyers – mean the actor will be watched closely in jail, legal experts say. In fact, he will have no privacy.
Defense attorney Steve Greenberg said the custody would have been ordered anyway.
“Any inmate like Smollett is going to be placed in some form of custody because of the prison’s liability issues if anything happens to him. I don’t think his outburst yesterday is anything to do with where they placed it,” Greenberg mentioned.
“I can tell you that after Smollett, probably the second most upset person about him being sent to jail was the Cook County Sheriff because of the amount of resources that now have to be devoted to Mr. Smollett.
Pressed by Smollett’s comments, lead defense attorney Nenye Uche discussed the 2019 death of financier Jeffrey Epstein while being held at the Metropolitan Correction Center in New York on charges of sex trafficking.
His death was ruled a suicide, but malfunctioning surveillance cameras and the nature of his injuries have fueled conspiracy theories and are under ongoing investigation.
Jussie Smollet | Cook County Sheriff’s Office
“He was doing it for a specific reason,” Uche said of his client. “Because let’s be honest when you have Epstein’s situation, where he was found dead in his prison, even in police custody.
“What was on Mr. Smollett’s mind was, what if he ends up dead in police custody? He doesn’t want anyone to think he took his own life,” Uche said.
Uche said he understood the concern, saying he had “sued numerous prisons for unexplained deaths”. He threatened to sue the Cook County Sheriff’s Office if anything happened to Smollett while in custody.
“If anything happened of course to Mr. Smollett … I would sue the prison,” Uche said. “So I expect professional conduct, I expect him to be protected.”
Even so, Uche said he fears Smollett will be cut off from contact with others in prison. “Custody is isolation, it’s mental isolation,” he said. “Of course, the flip side is that if you put him in the general population, his life is in danger.”
Pretrial detention is not the same as solitary confinement, which Sheriff Tom Dart said ended in 2016. The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for details about the solitary confinement. Smollett.
Smollett went through the prison’s standard admissions process Thursday night. He received a full medical and mental health evaluation, was tested for COVID-19 and offered a vaccine, if he has not already been vaccinated, officials said.
Inmates are being kept in solitary confinement for some time as part of the prison’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus. As of Thursday, 12 inmates tested positive for the coronavirus, all on admission, the sheriff’s office said.
Smollett, who is black and gay, was found guilty by a jury in December of five out of six disorderly conduct counts for false statements he made to Chicago police officers claiming he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack on January 29. 2019 near his Streeterville home.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributes to this report.