Out on $100,000 bail and back on the Empire set for a stint, Jussie Smollett on Thursday insisted he is innocent of conniving a racist and homophobic assault upon himself.
“Mr. Smollet is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing,” read a statement sent out late Thursday on behalf of the Empire actor.
“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” the hyperbolic statement added. “The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election,” it also noted, tossing more political edge into an already sharply political affair.
Facing a potential three years behind bars for the events of the early morning of January 29, this is the first statement from Smollett and his camp since the performer’s arrest earlier Thursday. Citing the charges of disorderly conduct and filing a false police report, Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie Johnson today called what Smollett is alleged to have done a “shameful” attempt to take “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
Not long after that, Empire‘s network and production company released its most tepid statement of support yet in the Smollett matter. “We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options,” 20th Century Fox TV and Fox Entertainment said Thursday morning of the actor, who recently was called “core” to the drama toplined by Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard.
In damning and detailed court hearing Thursday, Smollett was wearing the same clothes he was arrested in earlier in the day and spent several hours in an isolated jail cell. Seen as a possible flight risk, the actor was asked to surrender his passport during the hearing, which lasted just less than 15 minutes. He also was told to hand over $10,000 as 10% of his total bail.
As defense lawyer John Prior claimed Smollett need to get back to work on Empire, Judge John Lyke derided the allegedly faked attack as “utterly outrageous” and “despicable” if the actor is found guilty.
Smollett left Cook County jail a few hours later and headed straight to set of the Fox drama, which is in production on the final episodes of its current fifth season. No final decision has been made on Smollett’s future with Empire at this point, I hear. Yet, with so few scenes and little left to film, it now seems almost redundant at this point to suspend or pink slip the actor, who plays Jamal Lyon on the series.
However, when it comes to promotion, it seems the just released statement of innocence did not come from Smollett’s regular reps at Sharp & Associates nor his crisis PR team at Sunshine Sachs.
Tonight’s statement did not come from Smollett’s regular reps at Sharp & Associates nor his crisis PR team at Sunshine Sachs, but rather Mark Geragos, most recently Colin Kaepernick’s attorney, sometime shameless self-promoter and current CNN contributor. He was recently was retained as a part of the Empire actor’s defense team; the statement was first reported on CNN tonight.
Geragos was not in court with Smollett today in downtown Chicago. Perhaps the TV pundit/lawyer will be joining the actor when he returns to court next month.
Speaking on Good Morning America on February 14 in his first interview after the alleged attack, Smollett said he believed he was targeted in the alleged attack because of his criticism of Donald Trump. “I come really, really hard against 45,” the actor told GMA co-host Robin Roberts at the time. “I come really, really hard against his administration, and I don’t hold my tongue.”
Trump, who called the alleged attack on Smollett “horrible” a couple of days after it occurred, today tweeted: “What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments?”
With long since filmed episodes featuring Smollett, Empire returns for the remainder of its latest season March 13.
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