Sentencing former "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett to prison for staging a fake hate crime and lying about it would be a miscarriage of justice. Smollett is a famous actor whose career will likely never recover, his criminal history is minor, and the offense of conviction is non-violent. Those factors favor a sentence of probation with fines and/or community service. Our position is consistent with the sentencing factors outlined by Congress in the federal system which include "the nature and circumstances of the offense and the history and characteristics of the defendant ... to reflect the seriousness of the offense, to promote respect for the law, and to provide just punishment for the offense ... to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct ... to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant ... to provide the defendant with needed educational or vocational training, medical care, or other correctional treatment in the most effective manner." (see 18 U.S.C. 3553 https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/3553). Note that although this case is before an Illinois court and not a federal court that the law we just cited does not apply, but we are still using it because we are more familiar with the federal system and we know that the factors outlined by Congress are basically the same as the factors used by local judges across the country.
Nature and Circumstances of the Offense
The nature and circumstances of the offense do not favor prison time because the offense was non-violent, not a sex crime, and did not result in significant monetary losses for anyone other than Smollett.
History and Characteristics of the Defendant
The only prior conviction we are aware of Smollett having on his records was a misdemeanor for giving false information to law enforcement in 2007 (https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/20/entertainment/jussie-smollett-attack/index.html). People with a single prior misdemeanor from over 10 years ago typically fall at the bottom of the criminal history scales used in sentencing guidelines across the country. In such cases the guidelines typically favor probation unless the nature and circumstances of the offense are heinous enough to justify sending a first time felon to prison.
Smollett himself is a famous actor whose reputation has been ruined as a result of this case. There is a good chance he won't be able to find work in Hollywood at all after this. Any work he does find will not be anything like his prior work. He might be able to land a role as a zombie on The Walking Dead, but only because the makeup will keep viewers from recognizing him. Even then would likely have to exploit personal connections to overcome the fear any company would have of him being seen on their property. This factor favors probation because he has already suffered far more financially than most similarly situated defendants.
Reflect Seriousness of Offense
Nobody deserves to go to prison for making up stupid stories. Had he gotten away with it what would have been the harm? Two guys would have been paid for helping him stage the attack and nobody would have been hurt. It would have been for the most part a victimless crime with the only real victim being the truth. Such acts are not serious enough to justify sending anyone to prison.
Afford Adequate Deterrence and Protect the Public from Further Crimes
Smollett likely learned his lesson the second people started realizing what really happened. Just being known for doing something like this should be enough to deter Smollett and any similarly situated celebrity from trying to do something like this in the future. The conviction is surely enough to deter Smollett from doing it ever again.
The only possible argument for sending Smollett to prison under this section would be that he needs to be made an example of because of the high profile nature of the case. That argument is not valid because it would be largely based on who the defendant is and not what he did.
Provide the Defendant with needed Educational or Vocational Training
Smollett is a rich and famous actor with the means to send himself to college. The system has nothing to offer Smollett in this area.
What Sentence Would Be Appropriate?
We think that Smollett should be sentenced to three years of probation for each offense to be served concurrently with a fine and community service. That is the typical probation term imposed in felony cases. We think that a fine large enough to reflect the resources wasted by the city of Chicago as a result of this case should be imposed because Smollett has the resources to pay it. We also feel that a public form of community service capable of inflicting significantly more humiliation on him should be ordered. Such community service could include assignment to a public work crew responsible for cleaning graffiti and picking up trash after Black Lives Matter protests. We would also recommend that Judge James Linn order Smollett to wear a t-shirt in public while performing community service with "I FAKED A HATE CRIME!" or similar language printed on both sides in large letters.
Society would not benefit from paying to incarcerate Jussie Smollett. He is not a danger to society, he has suffered enough to deter anyone in his shoes from doing anything like this ever again, he is not in need of any services from the system, he is financially capable of compensating the city of Chicago for their expenses in this case, and there are many alternatives to prison capable of accomplishing the goals of sentencing outlined by Congress.
We also think that sending Smollett to prison would make Judge James Linn appear heavy handed and possibly racist. People would argue that a similarly situated white man wouldn't have been charged let alone sent to prison for something like this because usually when the police realize a crime was falsely reported they simply move on to the next case. Then a #FreeJussieSmollett movement would be born.
UPDATE: We have moved this post from the Other/News section to the Snitches section because Jussie Smollett testified against his co-conspirators and falsely accused them of committing a hate crime against him (https://nypost.com/2021/12/06/jussie-smollett-takes-the-stand-in-his-own-defense/). His conduct went beyond simply defending himself by attacking his snitches in court. He claimed that Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo attacked him before accusing him of the hoax. He blamed his creative director for allegedly telling him to wear a noose. He exposed an alleged steroid operation that if substantiated could expose people associated with the Osundairo's to criminal charges. On top of that he claimed to have had a drug fueled sexual encounter with Abimbola at a gay bathhouse which could expose the bathhouse to liability for permitting that activity if substantiated. He also claimed that Don Lemon tipped him off about the police not believing his story (https://nypost.com/2021/12/06/biggest-takeaways-from-jussie-smolletts-testimony-at-trial/). On top of that the police report makes it clear that had it not been for the story Smollett told the police nobody would have been investigated let alone arrested in the first place (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/5726083-Jussie-Smollett-police-report.html).