Jussie Smollett in ‘psych ward’ at jail, family allegedly receiving threatening phone calls
*WARNING: Article contains strong language that may not be suitable for some readers.*
CHICAGO — Family members of Jussie Smollett claim they have received harassing and threatening phone calls since the actor began serving five months of jail time for staging a hate crime hoax in 2019.
Smollett's defense team released a statement on Monday that said Jussie's siblings started getting "bombarded with phone threats" on Friday, the morning after the former Empire actor checked into the Cook County Jail.
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"The morning after Jussie checked into the jail, his sibling who’s [sic] phone number is his emergency contact started being bombarded with phone threats about harm that would be done to Jussie in the jail," the statement said.
Attorneys said a male caller used profane, racist and homophobic language and the call came from an unlisted number.
"Hi, this is n***** lives matter. I hope what they do to that guy in jail..here's what they're going to do, alright? They're going to take a broom handle and take that little f*****, shove it in there, and he's going to go [makes groaning noises]," the male voice said laughing before ending the call.
Jojo Smollet, Jussie's brother, said he's very concerned about the phone call.
"This person's voice, obviously a grown man, obviously a man well on in his years that does not need to be spending his time trying to intimidate people like this," Jojo Smollett said. "If you don't like Jussie, if you feel that justice was served, and he's paying his debt to society, if you believe that, just let him do it. Don't make things worse. Don't threaten people. Don't do things that you wouldn't to have happen to you. Simple golden rule principles, not too much to ask."
The Cook County Sheriff's Office released a statement Monday afternoon encouraging the family to report the alleged calls to local law enforcement.
"That's scary. The question then becomes is that a guard? Is that an inmate calling? Is it not a a prelude into something more serious about to happen?" said Nenye Uche, Smollett's attorney.
According to Jocqui Smollett, Jussie’s brother, he was moved to the psychiatric ward due to "being at risk of self-harm". Jocqui went on to say in an Instagram video shared on Saturday that this is "very concerning" to him.
"What's very concerning is that there was a note attached to his paperwork today saying that he's at risk of self-harm."
The sheriff's office said Monday that Smollett is currently housed in an area frequently used for people that need special supervision for mental health needs.
"He is currently housed in a location frequently utilized for individuals requiring a high level of supervision and care for mental health needs," the statement said. "This housing may also be utilized solely for security reasons due to the enhanced monitoring that can occur in this setting, and it would be inaccurate and irresponsible to make any assumption about his mental or medical condition based on where he is currently housed."
The sheriff's office went on to say that Smollett is currently not on suicide watch.
"The things that guy was describing are distinctly things that unfortunately happen violently to people who are incarcerated in America," said Jojo Smollett.
After Judge James Linn handed down his sentence Thursday night, Smollett began yelling that he was both innocent and not suicidal.
JUSSIE SMOLLETT REACTS TO JAIL SENTENCE FOR STAGING HATE CRIME: ‘I AM NOT SUICIDAL’
"And if anything happens to me when I go in there, I did not do it to myself. And you must all know that," Smollett shouted as he was led away by deputies.
Smollett's family said Monday he is "strong and would never hurt himself."
"I want to make it clear that he is in no way, shape, or form at risk of self-harm. 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... has been put up against him," Jocqui Smollett said.
In a statement on Friday, the Cook County Sheriff's Office said Jussie is being held in protective custody, typical for inmates "who may potentially be at risk of harm due to the nature of their charges, their professions or their noteworthy status."
Lawyers have asked an appeals court to release Smollett from jail while he attempts to overturn his conviction for faking a hate crime.
Smollett’s lawyers have filed a notice they intend to appeal the guilty verdict in Smollett’s trial and his sentence of 30 months of probation, with the first five months spent in Cook County Jail, as well as $140,000 in fines and restitution.
An emergency motion filed with the First District Court of Appeals asks the court to suspend his sentence or allow Smollett to go free on bond while his appeal works its way through the courts, noting that the actor would almost certainly have completed his jail sentence well before his appeal has been litigated. The motion also asks to delay payment of the fines.
The filing also states concerns about Smollett’s mental health if he is kept in protective custody within the jail and that he could face violence from other inmates.
Smollett has become a target of "vicious threats" online "which no doubt reflects the hatred and wish for physical harm towards Smollett which he may experience during incarceration," the motion states.
A letter from a doctor states that Smollett has unnamed health issues that could put him at greater risk if he should contract COVID-19.
The motion includes a long list of issues to be raised when his full appeal is filed, including that Special Prosecutor Dan Webb was improperly appointed after Smollett had reached a controversial deal with State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office to dismiss the case shortly after he was charged in 2019.
Veteran defense attorney Richard Kling said that appeal bonds are relatively rare and are granted only when issues raised for an appeal seem strong enough to overturn a conviction.
"In the best of times, and that was before COVID, an appeal takes 18 months to two years, so he certainly would have completed the jail portion of his sentence by then," Kling said.
The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.