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Jussie Smollett’s Empire co-star Taraji P Henson likens jailed liar to racist lynching victim Emmett

 Jussie Smollett’s former on-screen mom has likened the jailed hate crime faker to 14 year-old lynching victim Emmett Till in an Instagram post calling for Smollett’s release.

Taraji P Henson – who played Smollett’s fictional mom Cookie in the hit Fox drama, shared a post with #FREEJUSSIE typed in white text on a black background. 

She suggested the custodial sentence given to the disgraced star by a Chicago judge last week was too harsh, and that the actor should be allowed to serve it at home instead. 

The accompanying caption, written three days after Smollett was jailed for 150 days, read: ‘I am not here to debate you on his innocence but we can agree that the punishment does not fit the crime. 

‘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. No one was hurt or killed during Jussie’s ordeal. 

In her Instagram post’s caption, Hanson pleaded for Smollett’s case to be reviewed so that he could face a lesser punishment. She suggested that the Empire actor should face house arrest instead of jail time 

‘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. Please #freejussie’  

In 2019, Smollett, who is black and gay, falsely claimed he had been attacked by two men who had allegedly used racist and homophobic slurs after a night out in Chicago

His story later unraveled, and he was convicted of faking the hate attack last year. Smollett made a shocking outburst after he was sentenced Thursday suggesting he could fall victim to a murder made to look like a suicide, in an apparent reference to pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s 2019 hanging in a Manhattan jail cell.  

He and Henson grew particularly close after played her character Cookie’s son Jamal in Empire, the drama TV series on Fox.  

Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi in August 1955, aged just 14. The youngster was killed by a group of white racists after he was accused of ‘offending’ a white woman in a grocery store. 

His murder remains one of the most notorious race-hate killings in US history, and helped galvanize the civil rights movement’s protests against racial injustice. 

Jussie Smollet, 39, falsely claimed that he was assaulted by two men using homophobic and racial slurs at him in 2019. He was sentenced to 150 days in jail and 30 months of probation on Thursday

Emmett Till was a 14-year-old black teenager who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, after being accused of offending a white woman in her family's grocery store

Taraji P. Henson came out in full defense of Jussie Smollett (left) on Sunday after the Empire actor’s sentencing on Thursday, comparing his case to the one of 14-year-old racial lynching victim Emmett Till (right)

Taraji P. Henson, 51, defended her Empire co-star Jussie Smollett (right), 39, after he was given 150 days in jail at his sentencing on Thursday. Pictured: Smollett (left) and Henson (right) at The World Premiere of Screen Gems' 'Think Like a Man Too'

Taraji P. Henson, 51, defended her Empire co-star Jussie Smollett (right), 39, after he was given 150 days in jail at his sentencing on Thursday. Pictured: Smollett (left) and Henson (right) at The World Premiere of Screen Gems’ ‘Think Like a Man Too’

Actor Jussie Smollett wipes away tears after his grandmother testified at his sentencing hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, in Chicago, Illinois, on March 10, 2022

Actor Jussie Smollett wipes away tears after his grandmother testified at his sentencing hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building, in Chicago, Illinois, on March 10, 2022

Henson’s post, which was liked by several celebrities including Gabrielle Union and Leslie Jordan, echoes similar sentiment shared in letters read during Smollett’s sentencing on Thursday.

Alfre Woodard, Samuel L. Jackson and his wife LaTanya Richardson Jackson, as well as others echoed their support for Smollett and urged Judge James B. Linn to not sentence him any jail time.

The social media post comes after Smollett’s brother, Jocqui urged supporters to flood social media with posts hash-tagged #FreeJussie. He also told them to directly tag the Cook County Jail.

‘I want to make it clear to folks that he is in no way, shape or form at risk of self-harm,’ Jocqui said.  

Jocqui added that Jussie has been placed in a psych ward at the Cook County Jail. 

‘So Jussie is currently in a psych ward at the Cook County Jail. What’s very concerning is that there was a note attached to his paperwork today and put in front of his jail cell saying that he’s at risk of self-harm,’ said Jocqui Smollett in a video posted to his brother’s Instagram account Sunday morning.

In court on Thursday, Jussie insisted that he’s not suicidal to ensure if something happened to him in jail, the public would know it was foul play – a reference to Jeffrey Epstein’s jail cell hanging that many have speculated was a carefully-staged murder. 

Judge James Linn granted him ‘day for day’ eligibility, which means if he behaves himself behind bars, he will likely be released within 75 days – just over two months.

But even that short sentence left Smollett furious, with the actor deploying his 92 year-old grandmother as a witness in an attempt to avoid ending up behind bars.   

A law enforcement source told TMZ that the jailed Smollett is in the psych ward because it’s also the area where they house high-profile inmates. 

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office told DailyMail.com that Smollett is not being held in solitary confinement and that he enjoys ‘substantial time out of his cell,’ but did not confirm or deny reports that he’s in a psych ward.

Jocqui Smollett, brother of former Empire actor Jussie, says his brother is in a psych ward in jail and his paperwork has been updated to reflect that he is at risk of self har

Jocqui Smollett, brother of former Empire actor Jussie, says his brother is in a psych ward in jail and his paperwork has been updated to reflect that he is at risk of self har

Smollett told the judge on Thursday: ''If anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not to it to myself, and you must all know that'

Smollett told the judge on Thursday: ”If anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not to it to myself, and you must all know that’

Smollett told his attorneys before his Thursday court appearance that he would get a harsher sentence than most people convicted of a non-violent offense because he is black

Smollett told his attorneys before his Thursday court appearance that he would get a harsher sentence than most people convicted of a non-violent offense because he is black

‘The use of solitary confinement was abolished at the Cook County Jail in 2016, and any claims that he is being held in this manner is false,’ the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said.

‘Mr. Smollett is being housed in his own cell, which is monitored by security cameras in the cell and by an officer wearing a body worn camera who is stationed at the entrance of the cell to ensure that Mr. Smollett is under direct observation at all times.

‘As with all detained persons, Mr. Smollett is entitled to have substantial time out of his cell in the common areas on the tier where he is housed, where he is able to use the telephone, watch television, and interact with staff. During such times out of cell, other detainees will not be present in the common areas. 

‘These protocols are routinely used for individuals ordered into protective custody who may potentially be at risk of harm due to the nature of their charges, their profession, or their noteworthy status. The safety and security of all detained individuals, including Mr. Smollett, is the Sheriff’s Office’s highest priority.’

The actor’s brother said he hasn’t gotten clear answers from jail officials about why Jussie is allegedly in a psych ward. He urged supporters to flood social media in an attempt to figure it out. 

‘He wants to let folks know that he is very stable, he is very strong, he is very healthy and ready to take on the challenge that ultimately has been put up against him,’ Jocqui said on Instagram.

‘This is not right. This is completely lack of justice. It’s angering. It’s an outrage, but he ultimately knows what he needs to do.’ 

On Thursday Smollett – once a darling of the music and TV world for his success on the show Empire – was sentenced to 150 days in jail.

The star was convicted last year of five felony counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police repeatedly when he claimed he was the victim of a race hate attack in January and February 2019.

After he was sentenced Smollett told his legal team his prediction was correct and said the 150 day sentence was 'unfortunate' and 'sad' and blamed it on the judge's animosity towards him

After he was sentenced Smollett told his legal team his prediction was correct and said the 150 day sentence was ‘unfortunate’ and ‘sad’ and blamed it on the judge’s animosity towards him

But despite his light sentence, TMZ reported that Smollett told his attorneys before his Thursday court appearance that he would get a harsher sentence than most people convicted of a non-violent offense because he is black, calling it proof of systemic racism in the court system.  

After he was sentenced Smollett told his legal team his prediction was correct and said the 150 day sentence was ‘unfortunate’ and ‘sad’ and blamed it on judge Linn’s animosity towards him, TMZ.com reported. 

In court on Thursday Smollett protested ‘I am innocent! I am not suicidal’ as he was led away in handcuffs. He said it was a ploy to ensure if something happened to him in jail, the public would know it was foul play – a reference to Jeffrey Epstein’s jail cell hanging that many claim was an ‘inside job’, TMZ reported.   

Nenye Uche, Smollett’s lead attorney, told reporters that his client’s comments were made ‘for a specific reason,’ according to the New York Post.

‘I don’t want people to think, ‘Well, is he going crazy? Why is he yelling ‘I’m not suicidal?” He was doing it for a specific reason because, let’s be honest, we have the Epstein situation, where he was found dead in his jail even in protective custody,’ Uche said.

‘What Mr. Smollett was concerned about was, what if he turns up dead in protective custody? He doesn’t want people to think he killed himself.’ 

Smollett will serve his sentence in the Cook County Jail, a stone’s throw from the court and one of the biggest jail complexes in the country under protective custody.  

The Cooks County Sheriff’s Office confirmed on Friday that the 39-year-old will be housed in his own cell where he will be under video monitoring at all times, per the request of Smollett and his legal team,  the New York Post reported. 

‘Mr. Smollett is being housed in his own cell, which is monitored by security cameras in the cell and by an officer wearing a body-worn camera who is stationed at the entrance of the cell to ensure that Mr. Smollett is under direct observation at all times,’ the Cooks County Sheriff said in a statement.  

Inmate number 20220310140 in Chicago's Cook County Jail, Jussie Smollett

Inmate number 20220310140 in Chicago’s Cook County Jail, Jussie Smollett

Smollett's family posted his quote to Instagram hours after he began serving his sentence

Smollett’s family posted his quote to Instagram hours after he began serving his sentence

Smollett faced up to three years in prison and his attorneys made one last attempt for a non-custodial sentence, but it wasn’t enough to persuade Judge James Linn against imposing jail time.

After patiently listening to Smollett’s attorneys blame the jury, the media and the prosecutors for his conviction, Linn imposed a 150-day sentence and blasted Smollett’s ‘astounding hypocrisy’.

The actor has claimed throughout that he is the victim of a racist and homophobic campaign by the Chicago Police Department and prosecutor’s office.

He blamed former Chicago Police Chief Eddie Johnson – who is black – for going after him, and his brother yesterday fumed at assistant special prosecutor Samuel Mendenhall – who is also black – that they didn’t need a ‘lecture in racism’. 

He and his supporters say he is being unfairly punished because of his celebrity and that anyone else would have spared jail for the crimes he was convicted of.

He still maintains that he was telling the truth when he claimed to have been beaten up by two white Trump supporters in January 2019.

An aerial view of the enormous Cook County Jail complex where more than 6,000 inmates are spread across more than a dozen units, awaiting sentencing or trial dates or serving sentences

An aerial view of the enormous Cook County Jail complex where more than 6,000 inmates are spread across more than a dozen units, awaiting sentencing or trial dates or serving sentences

Judge James Linn is pictured sentencing Smollett to 150 days in Cook County jail

Judge James Linn is pictured sentencing Smollett to 150 days in Cook County jail

The worst of the jail: A solitary confinement cell in the Cook County Jail. Jussie is not likely to be placed in one of these cells

The worst of the jail: A solitary confinement cell in the Cook County Jail. Jussie is not likely to be placed in one of these cells

A jury unanimously convicted him of lying. They found that the evidence showed he had in fact paid his two black friends, brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo, to rough him up in a staged attack.

Police at the time suggested it was to raise his celebrity profile.

The two brothers testified at trial that Smollett walked them through exactly how to go about the attack. Smollett’s defense attorneys claimed they were liars throughout, but couldn’t explain why they would have lied to him.

The brothers were never charged because they never lied to police – the first time they were questioned about it, they told cops what had happened, according to Judge Linn.

Smollett has never relented on his defense and instead insists he was victimized by the City of Chicago.

Judge Linn has ordered him to pay $120,000 in restitution which reflects the $130,000 the city is suing him for, minus $10,000 that Smollett has already surrendered as part of a now canceled-out deal with the State’s Attorney’s Office.

As he was sentenced, Judge Linn blasted Smollett as a ‘charlatan’

Judge Linn was damning in his verdict, noting how Smollett on the stand reprimanded someone who, quoting him, used the N-word, and yet himself sabotaged the work of activists for equality.

‘The hypocrisy is just astounding. I believe that you did damage to actual hate crime victims. These are people who have a difficult time coming forward. There may be some trepidation.

‘I don’t know if they are going to be accused of acting like you, pulling a stunt like you. I don’t know if first responders are going to be more hesitant. I hope it’s not the case.’

‘You’re just a charlatan, pretending to be a victim of a hate crime.’

Inside the Cook County jail where Jussie Smollett will serve at least two months along with 6,000 inmates: Cramped dorms, riots in the mess hall and limited visits are what disgraced star can expect 

Because of the low-level, non-violent nature of Smollett’s crimes, he will not serve his time in a state prison. 

He is being housed instead for the two-and-a-half months in the Cook County Jail, a stone’s throw from the court and one of the biggest jail complexes in the country. 

He is currently being held in Division Eight – which is predominantly reserved for inmates with injuries or illness. It remains unclear if he will serve the duration of his sentence there, or if he will be moved after undergoing health checks. 

Inside the prison, there are cramped dorm rooms where hundreds of non-violent offenders sleep side by side in bunk beds. Smollett was convicted of five, non-violent felonies. It is unclear if he will have to sleep in a dorm, or if he'll be put in a cell

Inside the prison, there are cramped dorm rooms where hundreds of non-violent offenders sleep side by side in bunk beds. Smollett was convicted of five, non-violent felonies. It is unclear if he will have to sleep in a dorm, or if he’ll be put in a cell 

Jussie Smollett's Empire co-star Taraji P Henson likens jailed liar to racist lynching victim Emmett

An exterior view of Cook County Jail, where Smollett has begun his 150-day sentence. He will likely be let out after 75 days, if he behaves, and is currently being held in Division 8 – the medical unit. The prison has 6,000 inmates who are either serving sentences of under two years, or are awaiting trial 

An aerial view of the enormous Cook County Jail complex where more than 6,000 inmates are spread across more than a dozen units, awaiting sentencing or trial dates or serving sentences

An aerial view of the enormous Cook County Jail complex where more than 6,000 inmates are spread across more than a dozen units, awaiting sentencing or trial dates or serving sentences

Smollett will not receive visitors today. Visitation for inmates in Section 2E of Unit 8 – where records show he is now – begins tomorrow, at 2.30pm.  Division 8 is what is known as a Residential Treatment Unit. It is a two-wing facility and made headlines recently for a COVID outbreak which killed three inmates.  

Cook County Jail mostly houses suspects who are awaiting trial or convicts awaiting sentencing so there is a variety of violent and non-violent suspects and convicts in the population.

Those whose their sentences there have been given considerably light ones of two years or less. 

Several sections of the jail have enormous dormitories where hundreds of men sleep in bunk beds lined up, row to row.  There are individualized cell blocks, for more violent or at-risk offenders. 

During a New York Times visit to the jail for a 2017 feature on how it had been upgraded, one inmate repeatedly stabbed two others.   

A cell block in another portion of the jail. The locked cells are reserved for more violent offenders

A cell block in another portion of the jail. The locked cells are reserved for more violent offenders 

These are the cells in Division 8- the medical unit where Smollett is currently being held

These are the cells in Division 8- the medical unit where Smollett is currently being held 

In this Sept. 29, 2011 file photo, inmates at the Cook County Jail in Chicago wait to be processed for release. Jussie will have to spend at least half of his 150 day sentence

In this Sept. 29, 2011 file photo, inmates at the Cook County Jail in Chicago wait to be processed for release. Jussie will have to spend at least half of his 150 day sentence 

In this Sept. 29, 2011 file photo, inmates at the Cook County Jail in Chicago, line up to be processed for release

In this Sept. 29, 2011 file photo, inmates at the Cook County Jail in Chicago, line up to be processed for release 

In 2018, a violent brawl erupted in the mess hall where dozens of inmates started viciously fighting at the bottom of the stairs

In 2018, a violent brawl erupted in the mess hall where dozens of inmates started viciously fighting at the bottom of the stairs

A plea for help is written on a window of the maximum security unit of the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois, USA, 10 April 2020. In January 2022, more than 800 inmates and staff tested positive for COVID

A plea for help is written on a window of the maximum security unit of the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois, USA, 10 April 2020. In January 2022, more than 800 inmates and staff tested positive for COVID 

The COVID-19 quarantine tier with single cells at Division 11 of the Cook County Jail in Chicago on May 20, 2020

The COVID-19 quarantine tier with single cells at Division 11 of the Cook County Jail in Chicago on May 20, 2020

Smollett is currently being held in Division 8, the medical unit. It's unclear if he will be allowed to stay there

Smollett is currently being held in Division 8, the medical unit. It’s unclear if he will be allowed to stay there 

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