Taraji P. Henson invokes Emmett Till case to plead for Jussie Smollett’s freedom

Smollett was recently sentenced to 150 days in prison for lying about a racist, homophobic attack that he orchestrated.

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In a lengthy post on Instagram, actress Taraji P. Henson advocated for former Empire co-star Jussie Smollett to be released from an Illinois jail. 

The actor was recently sentenced to 150 days in prison for lying to police about a January 2019 racist, homophobic attack Smollett was convicted of orchestrating himself, as previously reported by theGrio. During a chaotic hearing, Smollett continued to maintain his innocence. He will also serve 30 months of probation and was fined more than $120,000 in restitution to the city of Chicago for staging a hate-crime hoax. 

M.A.C. Viva Glam spokespeople Jussie Smollett (left) and Taraji P. Henson (right) meet fans at M.A.C. Michigan Avenue in Chicago on Feb. 13, 2017. (Photo: Jeff Schear/Getty Images for M.A.C. Cosmetics)

In her post, which was reported in TMZ, Henson shared an image of the words #FreeJussie and a caption that invoked the murder of slain 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955. The gruesome images of Till’s battered and beaten body are considered by many to be a key element to help spark the modern civil rights movement. 

Henson wrote on Instagram: “I am not here to debate you on his innocence but we can agree that the punishment does not fit the crime. Emmett Till was brutally beat and ultimately murdered because of a lie and none of the people involved with his demise spent one day in jail, even after Carolyn Bryant admitted that her claims were false.”

“No one was hurt or killed during Jussie’s ordeal,” she added. “He has already lost everything, EVERYTHING! To me as an artist not able to create that in itself is punishment enough. He can’t get a job. No one in Hollywood will hire him and again as an artist who loves to create, that is prison.”

In conclusion, the Academy Award-nominated actress wrote, “My prayer is that he is freed and put on house arrest and probation because in this case that would seem fair. Please #freejussie.”

Henson played opposite Smollett for six seasons on the Fox drama Empire, from which Smollett was fired midway through its final season after his high-profile arrest. In 2017, the then-costars became part of a MAC Cosmetics collaboration that benefited people affected by HIV/AIDS. The two were featured in ads in which Henson rocked her signature color from Viva Glam.

TMZ reported Saturday that Smollett had been placed in a psychiatric ward at Cook County Jail, but they noted that law enforcement sources said it was because of his celebrity status. He will later be placed in protective custody. However, his brother, Jocqui, said in a video posted to Instagram that the family was concerned because ” there was a note attached to his paperwork today saying that he’s at risk of self-harm.”

Still, Smollett’s sibling noted, “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.”

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