The 92-year-old grandmother of the “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett took the witness stand on his behalf at his sentencing on Thursday, criticizing the media and telling the judge that if Smollett went to prison, she wanted to go with him.
“I ask you, judge, not to send him to prison,” the woman said from the stand. Then, she wagged a finger at the bench.
“And if you do,” she told the judge, “send me along with him, okay? Thank you, your honor.”
Her entreaty didn’t work. The judge sentenced Smollett to 150 days jail for four felony counts of lying to the police about the non-existent attack on a Chicago street in January, 2019.
The actor was led into a rear door to the courtroom alone, except for the court officers escorting him.
“I am not suicidal!” he shouted on his way out. “And I am innocent. I could have said I was guilty a long time ago.”
Speaking on his behalf before the sentence was handed down, Molly Smollett called her grandson a “justice warrior” who had donated his time to helping the fight against AIDS and working for voting rights.
She said the man she knew and loved did not match the media’s portrayal of him.
“I’m talking about you guys,” she said to the press in the courtroom.
“You have not done a good job of investigative reporting. You have got to do better,” she added.
The actor appeared to tear up and put his hand over his heart as his grandmother took the stand as one of four character witnesses asking the sentencing judge for leniency.
Smollett, 39, was convicted in December of five felony counts of disorderly conduct. He had been charged in connection with filing false police reports saying he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack.
Others who spoke of his behalf included Smollett’s brother and two of his closest friends, one of them Richard Daniels, 61, who met the actor while he was the music director for “Empire.”
Smollett had faced anywhere from probation to three years in prison. Prosecutors asked for some prison time and that he pay back some of the $130,000 in police overtime wasted on investigating his attack claims.