A well-placed source told Deadline today that Smollett’s ongoing legal issues are partly to blame for him remaining on the sidelines.
“There are still too many unknowns about what really occurred, why the charges were suddenly dropped and the effect it all has had on Empire for the network or the producers to feel Jussie can slip back into the show,” the individual said.
Smollett, who has played Jamal since the music drama debuted in 2015, was written out of the final episodes of Season 5 following his alleged hate crime attack in Chicago on Jan. 29.
The actor claimed he was beaten up by two masked men wearing “MAGA” hats, who shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him. But police said not so fast, and accused the actor of staging the entire thing.
Cook County prosecutors charged Smollett with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. The actor maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty. In a surprise move on March 26, the state’s attorney’s office suddenly dropped the charges after Smollett agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bail and perform community service.
The city is now suing him in civil court to recover more than $130,000 it allegedly spent in police overtime hours investigating the case.
In yet another twist Friday, the Cook County prosecutor’s office released 2,000 pages of documents related to the case, shortly after Chicago police made their own case files public.
Legal documents from the prosecutor’s office showed State’s Attorney Kim Foxx had not wanted to recuse herself from the case, and did so reluctantly after rumors — which were untrue — arose claiming she was related to Smollett.
Despite publicly stating in February that she was stepping away from the case, Foxx remained immersed in it.
The documents show she texted a deputy after her alleged recusal to say charges against the “washed up celeb who lied to cops” were too harsh. Foxx wrote: “Sooo …… I’m recused, but when people accuse us of overcharging cases … 16 counts on a class 4 becomes exhibit A.”
Her colleague responded by saying: “Yes. I can see where that can be seen as excessive.”
The release of the documents followed a Freedom of Information Act request by Chicago media outlets in April, seeking additional information on why the charges against Smollett were dropped.