Taraji P. Henson and Other Celebrities Criticize Jussie Smollett’s Punishment

Photo: Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic

After a judge sentenced Jussie Smollett to 150 days in county jail for staging a hate crime, Taraji P. Henson joined several other celebrities in calling the punishment excessive. Though Smollett maintained his innocence, he was found guilty last year of filing a false police report and was convicted of five counts of disorderly conduct. The Empire actor now faces 30 months of probation. Per the AP, he has also been ordered to pay $120,106 to the city of Chicago and a $25,000 fine. Smollett has seemingly implied that his safety could be at risk while he is in jail. “I am not suicidal,” he stated at his March 10 hearing. “And if anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it to myself. And you must all know that.” Here, a list of the celebrities who have spoken out against Smollett’s incarceration.

Taraji P. Henson

“I am not here to debate you on his innocence but we can agree that the punishment does not fit the crime,” Henson wrote on Instagram. She referenced Emmett Till, noting that no one went to jail when the Black teenager was lynched after being falsely accused of whistling at a woman. Henson argued that her former co-star has already “lost everything” as an artist and suggested house arrest and probation would be more fair. “Please #freejussie,” she concluded, followed by a series of praying hand emojis.

Jurnee Smollett

The Lovecraft Country actress previously stated that she believes her brother is not guilty, and she has clearly not changed her mind. In her Instagram post calling for Smollett’s release, she shared a statistic about the disproportionate incarceration rate of Black Americans. “You don’t have to believe in his innocence to believe he should be free,” she added.

Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson Jackson

Per the Independent, the married couple sent a letter to the judge presiding over Smollett’s trial ahead of the sentencing. They asked that he be punished in a way that did not involve incarceration. “We have often broken bread with this young man as we discussed the right and wrong ways to live,” the pair wrote. “Jussie comes from a good family whom we are proud to know intimately and who we know stand ready to provide the support and monitoring assistance that they can provide for him in an alternative probation scenario.” The Jacksons argued that Smollett has already been punished via the harm done to his reputation and career.

Alfre Woodard

The Clemency actress also reportedly wrote to the judge on behalf of Smollett. She used her letter to speak to Smollett’s character; according to the Independent, she called him “exceptionally kind” and “a compassionate presence and advocate for those without means since he was a boy.”

Indya Moore

Moore addressed an Instagram post directly to Smollett, writing, “I believe you and I believe in you to salvage life saving, spiritual wisdoms of abundance, power and truth- out of this bafflingly unjust, and detrimental challenge. You should not be in Jail.” In a follow-up post, the Pose star added, “I dont have a weird feeling in my tummy about him, i have a weird feeling in my tummy about this case.”

Kendrick Sampson

According to a screenshot captured by Buzzfeed, the Insecure actor shared Moore’s post on his Instagram story. “Breonna Taylor’s murderer, and an endless list of other cops, can’t be held accountable … but Jussie is locked in a CAGE for allegedly lying to police?” Sampson wrote. “How many Karens have lied to the police UNDER OATH a la Emmett Till with no accountability?”

Trevor Noah

Noah’s tweet suggests he believes Smollett did fake the hate crime against himself. However, The Daily Show host still appears to take issue with the length of Smollett’s jail sentence.

Taraji P. Henson, More Criticize Jussie Smollett Punishment