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Jussie Smollett cut from final episodes of 'Empire' season after actor's arrest, producers say

Published: Friday, February 22, 2019 @ 10:51 AM
Updated: Friday, February 22, 2019 @ 10:51 AM

What You Need to Know: Jussie Smollett Case

A judge on Thursday set bail for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett at $100,000 after he was arrested earlier in the day on suspicion of lying to authorities when he reported last month that he had been assaulted early on Jan. 29 by a pair of men who yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him.

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At a news conference Thursday, police said Smollett sent himself a threatening letter and later paid two brothers to attack him in an effort to further his career.

“This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary,” Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.

Update  10:50 a.m. EST Feb. 22: In a statement released Friday by officials with 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment, the executive producers of “Empire” said they were “placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out.”

“We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of ‘Jamal’ from the final two episodes of the season.” 

An unidentified source told CNN that Smollett apologized to the cast and crew of "Empire" on Thursday, after he bonded out of jail following his arrest on a disorderly conduct charge. He maintained his innocence, according to CNN.

Update 10:30 a.m. EST Feb. 22: The producers of “Empire” announced Friday that Smollett’s character will be taken out of the last two episodes of the show’s fifth season, The New York Times reported.

The announcement came one day after Smollett turned himself in to authorities to face an accusation that he lied when he filed a police report last month in which he claimed he was attacked by a pair of men in a suspected hate crime.

Smollett, who is black and gay, has portrayed Jamal Lyon as part of the cast of “Empire” since the show’s premiere in 2015.

Update 5 p.m. EST Feb. 21: “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has been released from jail after posting bond. 

Smollett walked out of the Cook County jail in Chicago about two hours after a hearing in which the judge set his bond at $100,000. 

The actor walked out in a group of people and to a waiting SUV. He didn’t speak to the large media contingent waiting outside.

Update 3:50 p.m. EST Feb. 21: In a bond proffer read in court Thursday, authorities laid out the investigation into Smollett’s allegation that he was attacked by a pair of men on Jan. 29, a report police have since determined to be false.

In the proffer, which was also read at a news conference with Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier, authorities said Smollett went so far as to point out cameras that he believed would capture the assault to the brothers he hired to fake the attack. Police said the camera was pointed another way during the incident.

 

Update 3:05 p.m. EST Feb. 21: A judge ordered Smollett be held on $100,000 bond at a hearing Thursday, according to WBBM-TV.

Smollett was also ordered to give up his passport and to undergo pre-trial monitoring, the news station reported.

 

Update 12 p.m. EST Feb. 21: In a statement released to WBBM-TV, officials with 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment said they were “evaluating the situation” after Smollett was arrested early Thursday and accused of faking an attack against himself to boost his career.

“We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process,” the statement said.

Smollett is expected to appear in court at 1:30 p.m. local time (2:30 p.m. EST) Thursday.

Update 11:15 a.m. EST Feb. 21: President Donald Trump responded on Twitter Thursday morning to reports that police had arrested Smollett on suspicion of filing a false police report.

“What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?” the president wrote.

 

Smollett told police he was attacked early on Jan. 29 by a pair of white men who yelled that he was in “MAGA country” -- an apparent reference to Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make American Great Again” -- and that they hit him in the face, poured an “unknown substance” on him and wrapped a rope around his neck, The Associated Press reported.

Police arrested Smollett early Thursday on a charge of disorderly conduct after officers said they uncovered evidence he orchestrated the attack to boost his career.

Update 11:05 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Police said Thursday that a pair of brothers who were arrested and later released in connection to the Jan. 29 incident confessed to authorities that they had been paid by Smollett to fake an attack on him.

“They punched him a little bit, but as far as we can tell, the scratches and bruises that he had on his  face were self-inflicted,” police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a news conference.

According to officials, Smollett paid the brothers $3,500 to stage the attack, with another $500 promised later. Johnson said officers had by Thursday obtained a copy of the check Smollett paid to the men.

“One of the brothers worked on ‘Empire,’ so they had a relationship, an association,” Johnson said. “He probably knew that he needed somebody with bulk. ... (The brothers) did it because of the financial aspect of it.”

Police said the brothers confessed to their roles in the attack in the 47th hour of their 48-hour holds after police arrested them last week. On Thursday, officers called them “victims,” and not offenders in the attack. Johnson said the brothers are cooperating witnesses and that, “Mr. Smollett is the one who orchestrated this crime.”

“I think the fact that this was staged and that Jussie hired these two guys to stage this ... put them in a really tough party as well, to the point where now they were arrested for a hate crime,” Detective Commander Edward Wodnicki said Thursday. “Only because of just the incredible work by the entire team did we get to the point where we were able to get the truth from them.”

Update 10:20 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Police said Thursday that Smollett sent himself a threatening, homophobic letter in the days before he reported he was attacked by a pair of assailants in downtown Chicago.

“This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary,” Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.

“Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism” to boost his career, Johnson said. “We do not, nor will we ever tolerate hate in this city.”

Update 9:55 a.m. EST Feb. 21: WBBM-TV obtained Smollett’s booking photo after he was arrested Thursday morning on a charge of disorderly conduct in falsifying a police report.

 

Police are expected to provide more information in the case at a news conference scheduled for 9 a.m. local time (10 a.m. EST) Thursday.

Update 6:42 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Smollett has turned himself in to Chicago police on a charge of felony disorderly conduct in falsifying a police report, The Associated Press is reporting.

 

Update 8:50 p.m. EST Feb. 20: Smollett’s Chicago attorneys, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, released a statement following the indictment:

“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”

 

Update 7:44 p.m. EST Feb. 20: The Chicago Tribune is reporting that Jussie Smollett has been charged with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report on Jan.29.

The charge is a Class 4 felony that carries a possible prison sentence of 1-3 years, but he could also receive probation.

 

The bond hearing has been set for 1:30pm Thursday according to WLS-TV.

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted that detectives will make contact with his attorneys and negotiate a surrender for his arrest.

 

Update 5:30 p.m. EST Feb. 20:  “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett is now considered a suspect and detectives are presenting case to grand jury according to the Chief Communications Officer for Chicago Police Department.

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi tweeted the news on Wednesday after Smollett’s attorneys met with prosecutors and detectives.

 

Update 4:30 p.m. EST Feb. 20: A police official said lawyers for Jussie Smollett are meeting with prosecutors and police investigators about the reported attack on the “Empire” actor. 

Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told the Associated Press the meeting was taking place Wednesday afternoon. He declined to confirm reports that subpoenas had been issued for Smollett’s phone and bank records.

Update 2:20 p.m. EST Feb. 20: Officials with 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment on Wednesday denied reports Smollett was being written out of “Empire” in a statement released to WBBM-TV.

“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,” the statement said.

The comment followed reports that Smollett's role on the show was being slashed amid investigations into the actor's report that he was attacked in Chicago last month.

Authorities continue to investigate.

Update 9:30 a.m. EST Feb. 20: Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself Monday from the investigation into the reported attack against Smollett, according to WMAQ-TV. In a statement emailed to the station, a spokesperson for Foxx’s office said First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats would instead serve as acting state’s attorney in the case.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the decision to recuse herself was made to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case,” the statement said, according to WMAQ-TV.

No further information was provided on the reason behind for the recusal.

Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Tuesday that authorities determined a tip they were investigating about a possible sighting of Smollett and the brothers who were previously suspected in the attack were unfounded.

“It was not supported by video evidence obtained by detectives,” Guglielmi said.

 

Original report: Authorities are investigating a tip that Smollett was seen in an elevator in his apartment building with two men who have since been arrested on suspicion of carrying out the attack in downtown Chicago, and were subsequently released without charges, police told The Associated Press.

The men, who were identified by attorney Gloria Schmidt as brothers Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo, were released without charges Friday after police said new evidence surfaced in the case, according to CNN and police. 

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Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi told The Associated Press a person who lives in the building or who was visiting someone there reported seeing the Osundairo brothers with Smollett on the night he was attacked. Guglielmi told the AP that as of Tuesday, officers had yet to confirm the account.

Smollett told officers he was attacked around 2 a.m. Jan. 29, as he was walking downtown near the Chicago River. He said two men yelled that he was in “MAGA country” -- an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make American Great Again” -- and that they hit him in the face, poured an “unknown substance” on him and wrapped a rope around his neck, The Associated Press reported.

>> Jussie Smollett's attorneys say he will not meet with investigators, despite reports

Guglielmi told the AP that Smollett still had a rope around his neck when officers first made contact with him after the alleged attack.

Last week, police announced that the "investigation had shifted" following interviews with the brothers and their release from custody without charges. Police have requested another interview with Smollett. They have declined to comment on reports that the attack was a hoax, a claim Smollett’s attorneys have denied.

 

"Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying," Smollett’s attorneys said in a statement late Saturday.

Authorities continue to investigate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.