Disgraced Empire star Jussie Smollett says he was sentenced more harshly because he is Black

Jussie Smollett.
Jussie Smollett. Photo credit: Getty Images

Disgraced Empire star Jussie Smollett says he was sentenced more harshly over his fake hate crime incident because he is Black.

In 2019, Smollett, who is also gay, claimed two attackers put a noose around his neck and poured chemicals on him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs and expressions of support for former US President Donald Trump.

But police arrested the actor a month later, saying he paid two brothers US$3500 to stage the attack in an effort to raise his show-business profile.

Earlier this week he was sentenced in a Chicago court to 30 months probation and 150 days in jail for staging a hate crime against himself. He was also ordered to pay US$120,000 in restitution and fined US$25,000 by Cook County Circuit Court Judge James Linn.

Sources close to Smollett told TMZ he blames the harshness of his sentence on being Black.

"He told his defense team before sentencing he felt he would be treated more harshly than other defendants convicted of a non-violent crime... all because of the color of his skin. He thinks it's more evidence of systemic racism in the judicial system," TMZ reports.

Speaking in court following his sentencing, Smollett spoke out, insisting he was innocent and wasn't going to kill himself, which TMZ says was a reference to the controversial death of Jeffrey Epstein in jail.

"I am not suicidal. That's what I would like to say. I am not suicidal. I am not suicidal. I am innocent, and I am not suicidal," Smollett 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 honor, I respect you and I respect the jury, but I did not do this and I am not suicidal.

"And if anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it to myself, and you must all know that. I respect you, your honor, I respect your decision - jail time... I am not suicidal."

After the sentencing, Smollett told his team he was right to predict the harshness of his jail time because of Judge Linn's animosity towards him, TMZ reports - adding he described it as "unfortunate" and "sad".

Reuters / Newshub