Jussie Smollett released from prison
What’s next for Jussie Smollett after his release from prison on Wednesday? Several legal experts gave their opinions in interviews with Fox News Digital.
Smollett was granted bail from Cook County Jail in Illinois pending appeal of his conviction. A panel of three appellate judges ruled in a 2-1 decision granting the former ‘Empire’ star the release after posting a $150,000 personal bond.
That’s nearly the $120,106 restitution amount Smollett was ordered to repay after he was convicted of lying to Chicago police about being the victim of a hate crime in 2019.
As the appeals judges released Smollett on his own recognizance, he will not pay any of the amounts as long as he agrees to appear in court as required.
Legal experts who weighed in on the court’s decision as news of Smollett’s release quickly spread raised questions about why the three-judge panel chose to bail the actor out of jail, as well as on what it could potentially mean for his sentencing appeal.
According to a criminal defense attorney, while Smollett’s celebrity status hurt him during his trial and subsequent sentencing by Judge James Linn, the decision to release him pending his appeal was ” a big sign” for the embattled singer and performer after his arrest. recently sentenced to 150 days in jail and 30 months felony probation in addition to restitution.
Los Angeles-based defense attorney Lara Yeretsian — who is not involved in the case — told Fox News Digital minutes after the release order was granted on Wednesday that she believed Smollett , 39, “had very good reasons for his release”.
During Smollett’s sentencing hearing on March 10, his attorney argued that he had been the victim of a double conviction based on the Fifth Amendment clause and doubled down on the idea in court that it was “unconstitutional to charge someone twice” for the same offence. .
At a Wednesday press conference outside the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Smollett’s legal team’s double jeopardy arguments were mentioned again and were based on the Cook County State’s Attorney , Kim Foxx, who initially dismissed the indictment against Smollett in exchange for forfeiting his $10,000 bond.
Following Foxx’s denial of the original charges, special prosecutor Dan Webb was named in the case and he eventually charged Smollett. However, the actor’s lawyers argued that the threat had already been attached and he could not be sued a second time.
Now Smollett’s defense attorney, Nenye Uche, is seeking to appeal the verdict.
“We are very pleased with the decision rendered by the Illinois District Court of Appeals,” Uche said in a statement to Fox News Digital. “We are happy that sensationalism and politics are being put aside and that we can finally have an intellectual discussion about our laws with our esteemed court of appeal.
“Three years ago, Jussie and the State of Illinois reached a deferred prosecution agreement in which he paid a $10,000 fine and performed community service. Accordingly, the case was dismissed,” the statement continued. “To be charged and prosecuted for the exact same thing, a second time, is not only morally wrong, but certainly double jeopardy and therefore unconstitutional – especially since it involves an innocent man.”
Yeretsian thinks Smollett’s lawyers have a strong argument and the three-judge panel might have felt the same way, because the justice system should only consider the law and the Constitution.
“The one aspect that really, really stands out for me in terms of appeals is the special pursuit – I mean, it’s almost unheard of,” she explained of the appointment of the special prosecutor Webb. “Smollett had a deal. He accepted the deal. He met his role. He had a contract with the Crown to do community service and he lost his $10,000 bail and in return they gave him a diversion agreement and once he was done with his general interest and lost bail, that case was dismissed – same charges.
Webb did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
Additionally, West Coast Trial Lawyers president Neama Rahmani — who is also an uninvolved viewer of the Smollett saga — told Fox News Digital that for the tri-committee panel to come back with a decision releasing the actor from prison, “there must be a clear legal error” allegedly on the part of Judge Linn or prosecutors who indicated a reason for Smollett’s release.
“There are a lot of people unhappy with Kim Foxx,” Rahmani said of the confusion surrounding Foxx’s “deal” which Smollett accepted but did not formally plead into signing.
“[Smollett] didn’t accept a plea, that’s why it’s a strange problem,” Rahmani insisted. “He did not accept a plea. [Foxx] said: ‘Listen, give up your bail and if you agree to do community service, I’m going to fire you.’ That’s why it’s a weird legal problem.
JUSSIE SMOLLETT SCREAMS HE IS ‘INNOCENT’, ‘NOT SUICIDAL’ AFTER SENTENCED TO PRISON
When asked point-blank if he thought Smollett now had a decent record to have his conviction overturned based on his team’s Fifth Amendment argument, Rahmani simply agreed based on the ruling. appeal judges.
“Yes, it’s a good deal, and we know it’s a good deal because he already has two out of three judges saying he should be released on bail and his sentence should be suspended while this appeal process is heard,” Rahmani mentioned. “So he has a very good legal argument to have his conviction overturned.”
Does “dual criminality” apply?
Meanwhile, on the prosecutors’ side, Rahmani maintained that he understands the proverbial gray area the case straddles, and added that the prosecution was more than fair in raising the fact that Smollett had not signed any plea agreements, so double jeopardy should not apply.
“The trial judge said [Smollett] didn’t plead, he wasn’t punished, so the danger never attached, but what I think the appellate judges are going to say is that by making him give up bail , it is considered a punishment – the danger attaches and you can not [charge him again]said Rahmani.
Rahmani pointed out that Smollett’s forfeiture of his $10,000 bond was at stake not only for punishment, but also for acceptance of the Foxx deal.
“This one was sort of non-standard. Normally deals are not in exchange for losing your bond,” he said. “So it’s a very atypical case and I think that’s why the trial judge [Linn] said, the danger did not attach because [Smollett] never came here and pleaded in my courtroom with a plea deal and all the things that are normally involved in dismissal.
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“We are satisfied”
After Wednesday’s press conference, Tina Glandian of Geragos & Geragos, who also represents Smollett, told Fox News Digital in a statement, “We are thrilled to have Jussie back with his family and loved ones and look forward to a unbiased review. and the reversal of the serial injustices inflicted upon him.
The court ruling marks the latest chapter in a bizarre story that began in January 2019 when Smollett reported to Chicago police that he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two men wearing ski masks. The manhunt for the attackers quickly turned into an investigation into Smollett himself and his arrest for orchestrating the attack and lying to police about it.
Authorities said Smollett paid two men he knew from working on the TV show “Empire” to stage the attack. Prosecutors said he told them what racist and homophobic slurs to yell and yell that Smollett was in “MAGA Country,” a reference to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign slogan.
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A jury convicted Smollett in December of five counts of disorderly conduct – the charge laid when a person lies to police. He was acquitted on a sixth count. Judge 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.