Jussie Smollett ‘Feels Betrayed,’ Legal System ‘Wants to Skip Due Process,’ Actor’s Reps Say

Representatives for the “Empire” star say the actor “fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence”

Last Updated: February 21, 2019 @ 6:56 PM

Jussie Smollett “feels betrayed” by the criminal justice system after turning himself in to police, representatives for the actor said Thursday.

“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” read a statement put out on the actor’s behalf following his release from custody Thursday afternoon. “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. Mr. Smollett 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.”

Smollett was released from Chicago police custody after posting bail and surrendering his passport during a bond hearing in front of State of Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. Smollett’s bail was set at $100,000, with the actor required to post $10,000 (10 percent) for release.

Within hours of his release, Smollett returned to work on the set of Fox’s “Empire.” His next court date has been set for Thursday, March 14 at 11:30 a.m.

The actor — who plays the openly gay Jamal Lyon on Fox’s hip-hop drama — turned himself in to police at 5 a.m. CT Thursday morning, hours after he was formally charged with filing a false police report.

As TheWrap previously reported, Smollett’s role has already been cut down on the remaining episodes of the currently airing fifth season of “Empire.” An individual close to Smollett told TheWrap on Thursday that, as of now, the actor still plans to be on set throughout the week, but cautioned that plans could change quickly amid his ongoing legal issues.

Representatives for Fox and “Empire” studio 20th Century Fox did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on Smollett’s return to set.

The criminal case against Smollett stems from a report he filed on Jan. 29 that he was attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs and referenced “MAGA.” After releasing two former suspects over the weekend, police said they wanted to interview Smollett again — and days later declared him a suspect.

During a press conference Thursday morning, Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that Smollett staged the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.” Johnson also said Smollett sent the letter threatening himself to Fox, the “Empire” studio. When Johnson first made those statements, he did not mention its source or his proof.

Minutes later, during the media conference’s Q&A portion, the police superintendent responded “yes” to a reporter who asked if that information came from brothers Olabinjo (“Ola”) and Abimbola (“Abel”) Osundairo, who were initially persons of interest and turned out to have both worked on “Empire.”

Johnson also said the following of Smollett’s photographed wounds: “So, of course, it was staged. The brothers had on gloves during the staged attack where they punched him a little bit. But as far as we can tell, the scratches and bruising that you saw on his face were most likely self-inflicted.”

In a later press conference, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier detailed the prior relationship between Smollett and Abel Osundairo, saying that he was a source of “designer drugs” for Smollett and that they had been friends since late 2017. Lanier also detailed the timeline of events, including when and how Smollett convinced Abel, and later his brother, Ola, to stage an attack on him.

20th Century Fox said Thursday morning it is “considering our options” on Smollett. “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”

A day earlier, the studio had renewed its support of Smollett, saying, “Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show.” That statement came amid reports, including one here, that Smollett’s role would be reduced over the remainder of “Empire’s” fifth season.

Since Smollett’s first police report on Jan. 29, the investigation took many turns, with varying degrees of cooperation from Smollett.

The brothers were released without charges last Friday after the police said “new evidence” had emerged and that the investigation’s “trajectory” had changed course. Earlier this week, CNN reported that Chicago police believed that Smollett might have paid the brothers to stage the attack.

A week before Smollett reported the attack, Fox received a letter threatening Smollett. On Tuesday, ABC News reported that the FBI and U.S. Postal Service were looking into the possibility that Smollett had sent the threatening letter to himself, or played a role in its creation and delivery.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the investigation Tuesday to avoid “potential questions of impartiality,” a rep for Foxx said. First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats has been set to act as prosecutor in her place.

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