Smollett’s attorneys also read aloud letters from other supporters, including the president of the NAACP, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and actors LaTanya and Samuel L Jackson that asked Linn to consider the case’s effect on Smollett’s life and career.
Several supporters spoke about worries that Smollett would be at risk in prison, specifically mentioning his race, sexual orientation and his family’s Jewish heritage.
Linn said he did consider those requests for mercy, along with Smollett’s prior work for and financial support of social justice organisations. But Linn also excoriated Smollett as a narcissist and pronounced himself astounded by his actions given the actor’s multiracial family background and ties to social justice work.
“The damage you’ve done to yourself is way beyond anything else than can happen to you from me,” Linn said. “You are now a permanently convicted felon.”
Smollett’s attorney Nenye Uche said he will ask the jail to keep Smollett in protective custody and plans to appeal both the verdict and the judge’s sentence.
Uche said he didn’t expect Linn to include jail time but Smollett did.
“He said: ‘Because I’m a black guy, no matter how successful I’ve gotten, I’m black,’” Uche told reporters after the hearing.
A spokesman for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said Smollett will have a comprehensive medical, mental health and security assessment, a routine process.
Before the sentencing portion of the hearing began, Linn rejected a motion from the defense to overturn the jury’s verdict on legal grounds. Judges rarely grant such motions.
Smollett faced up to three years in prison for each of the five felony counts of disorderly conduct – the charge filed for lying to police – of which he was convicted. He was acquitted on a sixth count.
But because Smollett does not have an extensive criminal history and the conviction is for a low-level nonviolent crime, experts did not expect him to be sent to prison.
Thursday’s sentencing, which is subject to appeal, is the latest chapter in a criminal case that made international headlines when Smollett reported to police that two men wearing ski masks beat him, and hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him on a dark Chicago street and ran off.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx had come under fire for her office’s decision to drop its initial charges against Smollett. On Thursday, Foxx blasted a “relentless, organised and effective” push to pursue Smollett while other serious crimes went unsolved or unresolved.
“Just because we do not like the outcome should not mean we bully prosecutors and circumvent the judicial process to get it changed,” Foxx wrote in a column published by the Chicago Sun-Times. “Smollett was indicted, tried and convicted by a kangaroo prosecution in a matter of months.”
Judicially appointed special prosecutors led the second case and Smollett was convicted in December. Witnesses at his trial included two brothers who told jurors Smollett paid them to carry out the attack, gave them money for the ski masks and rope, instructed them to fashion the rope into a noose. Prosecutors said he told them what racist and homophobic slurs to shout, and to yell that Smollett was in “MAGA Country”, a reference to the campaign slogan of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
Smollett, who knew the men from his work on the television show Empire that filmed in Chicago, testified that he did not recognise them and did not know they were the men attacking him.
Unlike the trial, Linn agreed to let photographers and a television camera inside court for the hearing – meaning the public got to see and hear Smollett speak in court for the first time.