Thursday 17 October 2019

Jussie Smollett released on bond after accusation he staged attack over salary

The Empire actor alleged that he was attacked last month but police in Chicago say it was a hoax.

Jussie Smollett was released on bail after an accusation he staged an attack on himself (Kamil Krzaczynski/AP)
Jussie Smollett was released on bail after an accusation he staged an attack on himself (Kamil Krzaczynski/AP)

By Lucy Mapstone, Press Association Deputy Entertainment Editor

Empire star Jussie Smollett has been released from jail after being accused of staging a racially motivated and homophobic attack on himself in Chicago last month.

The 36-year-old American actor, who was charged with felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, turned himself in and was arrested in Chicago on Thursday.

Following a hearing that saw Cook County Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr set a 100,000 US dollar (£77,000) bond, Smollett walked free from the Cook County jail.

He had to pay 10,000 US dollars (£7,670) to be released, as well as surrender his passport.

Empire actor Jussie Smollett leaves Cook County jail following his release on Thursday in Chicago (Kamil Krzaczynski/AP)

During the bond hearing, Smollett – who denies the allegations – spoke only to state his name, according to the Associated Press.

He later left the jail without speaking to the crowd of reporters and onlookers who had gathered.

If found guilty of the class 4 felony, Smollett faces a prison sentence of between one to three years but could also receive probation.

Smollett said he had been attacked by two masked men in downtown Chicago on January 29, telling police his attackers shouted racist and homophobic abuse and tied a noose around his neck.

The actor, who is black and came out as gay in 2015, made a tearful appearance on Good Morning America this month and said he had been “forever changed” by the alleged attack.

Jussie Smollett’s mugshot (AP/PA)

However, Chicago police allege that the attack was a hoax orchestrated by the actor as he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on Fox network drama Empire.

They claim he hired two brothers, who are black, to help stage a “phony attack” on him last month, but that his plan was thwarted because the surveillance camera was not faced in the right direction to capture the beating.

Police say the brothers are co-operating with the investigation.

Speaking on Thursday, Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that Smollett had initially “attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language”.

Mr Johnson said when that did not work, Smollett “paid 3,500 US dollars to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process. And why? The stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary.”

The actor “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” he added, and that it was a “publicity stunt” that the city did not deserve.

Following the alleged attack, Smollett had been widely supported by celebrities and public figures, including Ariana Grande, Michael B Jordan, Olivia Munn and Ellen DeGeneres, as well as Donald Trump.

However, on Thursday, Mr Trump tweeted to Smollett: “What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA.”

Smollett initially told police that his alleged attackers made reference to MAGA – Make America Great Again – which was Mr Trump’s slogan during the 2016 US presidential campaign.

Smollett has starred in musical drama Empire since 2015. He plays Jamal, the gay son of a music mogul, played by Terrence Howard.

Fox has said it is “considering our options” regarding Smollett’s place in the show following his arrest.

In a statement earlier on Thursday, the TV company said: “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”

PA Media

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