Actor Jussie Smollett has reportedly apologized to his “Empire” co-stars following his arrest for allegedly fabricating a story about being the victim of a hate crime, but continues to claim that he’s innocent.
The 36-year-old actor turned himself in to police on Thursday, nearly one month after he first claimed to be the victim of a racist, homophobic attack. Police have since alleged that Smollett staged the entire ordeal to “further his own public profile,” which resulted in prosecutors charging Smollett with filing a false police report. He appeared in court for the first time on Thursday, where a judge set his bond at $100,000 and ordered him to surrender his passport; he was reportedly released after paying $10,000.
Smollett met with members of the cast and crew of “Empire” later that same day and apologized for any embarrassment the situation may have caused them, an unnamed party who was reportedly present at the meeting told CNN. However, he held fast to his claims of innocence, according to the network’s source.
The response from his coworkers has reportedly been mixed. While there are some who still believe Smollett, others want him written off of the show, or would like to see him quit, TMZ reports, citing anonymous sources.
His future on the show seems uncertain, with 20th Century Fox tweeting shortly after news of his arrest broke that they were “weighing our options.”
Smollett, who is black and gay, originally told police that two men assaulted him on Jan. 29 and left a noose around his neck. Police now contend that Smollett orchestrated the attack — in addition to a threatening letter he received in the mail before then — because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.”
If convicted, Smollett faces up to three years in prison and may be ordered to cover the costs of the investigation, according to Variety.
Smollett’s legal team criticized law enforcement and defended Smollett in a statement obtained by CBS Chicago’s Charlie De Mar and published Thursday evening.
“Today we witnessed 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,” their statement reads. “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.”
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