Jussie Smollett freed on US$100K bond after charge laid in ‘hoax’ attack
UPDATE: Jussie Smollett has been released from custody after posting bond, which a judge set at US$100,000.
The Empire actor did not speak to reporters as he left Cook County jail in Chicago on Thursday afternoon.
During a bond hearing earlier that day, Smollett said little other than giving his name at the beginning.
Smollett’s lawyer had asked Cook County Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. to release Smollett on his own recognizance. The judge said that would be inappropriate.
WATCH: Chicago police said that actor Jussie Smollett staged the alleged attack
Smollett is due back in court on March 14.
Prosecutors say Smollett gave detailed instructions to two brothers who helped him in a staged attack against him in downtown Chicago, including giving them specific slurs to yell and telling them to shout “MAGA country” and to drape a rope around his neck.
Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier said at a news conference Thursday that Smollett even pointed out to the brothers a specific surveillance camera that he thought would capture footage of the Jan. 29 attack. Police say the camera was pointed another way during the staged attack.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel says hate crimes will never be tolerated in Chicago and charges accusing Smollett “will never trump Chicago’s collective spirit.”
Emanuel says “no matter where you come from, who you love or how you pray you will always have a home” in Chicago.
The mayor also thanked police and business owners who offered surveillance video evidence to help investigators.
ORIGINAL STORY: Empire actor Jussie Smollett has been arrested for allegedly filing a false police report claiming he was the victim of a hate crime in Chicago, police said Thursday morning.
Smollett, 36, was charged with felony disorderly conduct Wednesday evening for allegedly lying to Chicago police on Jan. 29. In the report, the actor, who is openly gay, said he was attacked by two masked men who yelled racist and homophobic slurs at him.
Chicago police said Thursday morning that Smolett paid $3,500 to stage the attack because he was dissatisfied with his Empire salary.
WATCH BELOW: Prosecutors detail how Jussie Smollett allegedly planned staged attack
At a press conference Thursday, police said they had arrested Smollett for a “hoax” attack.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Commander of Area Central Detectives Edward Wodnicki updated the public on the actor’s arrest, with Johnson starting off the conference with how he was “offended and angry” about Smollett’s alleged actions.
Johnson also said that Smollett sent a racist and homophobic threatening letter to himself at the Fox studio lot before the attack.
“As a black man,” Johnson said, and as a life-long Chicago resident, he wished that the victims of gun violence in the city got such attention.
WATCH: Chicago police provide details about Jussie Smollett investigation, arrest
“I just wish the families of gun violence got this much attention. I know the racial divide, how hard it’s been for our city and nation to come together.”
He believes that Smollet took advantage of racism in America in order to further his career, and that it sets back race relations in the U.S., which are already on a knife’s edge.
“There is no room for hatred in this city,” he declared, clearly emotional.
“[Smollett] took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” he continued. “Why would anyone use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? How can an individual turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?”
“I’m offended by what’s happened and I’m also angry. This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and didn’t deserve. I only hope the truth about what happened receives the same amount of attention that the hoax did.”
In a statement provided to WGN TV News, Smollett’s lawyers blasted what they called an “organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system.”
“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.”
Smollett had originally said the attackers put a noose around his neck and poured what he believed to be bleach over him. He also claimed the masked men beat him and yelled “This is MAGA country” — an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” — before fleeing.
U.S. President Donald Trump even weighed in on the Smollett case.
California Sen. Kamala Harris, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, said she’s “sad, frustrated and disappointed” at the reports about Smollett.
“When anyone makes false claims to police, it not only diverts resources away from serious investigations but it makes it more difficult for other victims of crime to come forward,” she tweeted.
However, she also noted that hate crimes are on the rise in the United States, citing FBI statistics that showed they’ve grown by 17 per cent.
The offence the actor is charged with is could bring one to three years in prison — and for Smollett to pay for the cost of the investigation.
Earlier Wednesday, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television issued a statement saying Smollett “continues to be a consummate professional on set” and that his character is not being written off the show.
WATCH:Al Sharpton says whoever is wrong in Smollett case should face maximum penalty
After Smollett made the report in January, detectives reviewed hundreds of hours of video for the attack and then released images of two people they said they wanted to question.
Police found the suspects, two brothers, who were identified by their attorney as Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo. They were held for nearly 48 hours on suspicion of assaulting Smollett.
They were then released and police said the men provided information that had ”shifted the trajectory of the investigation,” and detectives requested another interview with Smollett.
— With files from Reuters and the Associated Press
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