Lawyers for Jussie Smollett said the Empire star "feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing" in a statement late Thursday after Smollett was released from jail on a $100,000 bond. The attorneys' statement was the first disseminated on behalf of Smollett since he was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.
"Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system," said Smollett's lawyers in a statement released to press. "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 made headlines last month after claiming he was attacked by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him, while also placing a noose around his neck. Following a lengthy investigation, however, Chicago police determined Smollett allegedly orchestrated the assault and paid two men a reported $3,500 to stage the incident.
"Bogus police reports do real harm," Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a Thursday morning press conference. "They do harm to every real victim who is in need of police assistance."
Johnson, who called the incident "a scar that Chicago didn't earn and certainly didn't deserve," also lamented the media attention on the case which resulted from Smollett's celebrity. "I just wish that the families of gun violence in this city got this much attention because that's who really deserves the amount of attention that we're giving to this particular incident," he said.
According to police, Smollett was "dissatisfied" with his Empire salary, but that claim has also come into question as well: sources told The Hollywood Reporter Smollett didn't express unhappiness with his compensation on the show.
After being released from jail, Smollett returned to the Chicago set of Empire, reported PEOPLE. But on Friday, it was revealed Smollett won't appear in the show's final episodes. "The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us. Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years and we care about him deeply," the show's executive producers, including Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and Brian Grazer, said in a statement. "While these allegations are very disturbing, we are 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."
Previously, representatives for Twentieth Century Fox Television, which had previously stood behind the actor, said the company was considering its options concerning 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."
While Smollett's future involvement with Empire remains unclear, at least one show parted ways with the actor in the wake of his arrest. Jensen Karp, an executive producer on TNT's Drop the Mic, tweeted that a planned episode with Smollett and Clay Aiken will no longer air.
Shortly after police announced Smollett's arrest on Thursday, President Trump came after the actor via Twitter. Tagging the actor, the president wrote, "what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA." In his initial description of the incident, Smollett had alleged that his attackers shouted the pro-Trump phrase "MAGA country," in reference to Trump's slogan, "Make America great again."
Trump's only other public mention of Smollett came last month after the incident was first reported. "I can tell you that it's horrible. It doesn't get worse," Trump said during a press conference.
Earlier on Thursday morning, Chicago Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi announced on Twitter that Smollett had been taken into custody. A mug shot of the actor, seen below, was later released.
The news came a day after Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report. Guglielmi tweeted on Wednesday afternoon, "Felony criminal charges have been approved by @CookCountySAO against Jussie Smollett for Disorderly Conduct / Filing a False Police Report. Detectives will make contact with his legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest."
Press Briefing: Jussie Smollet is under arrest and in custody of detectives. At 9am at #ChicagoPolice Headquarters, Supt Eddie Johnson, Commander of Area Central Detectives Edward Wodnicki will brief reporters on the investigation prior to the defendants appearance in court. pic.twitter.com/9PSv8Ojec2— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) February 21, 2019
Smollett's attorneys released the following statement regarding the charges: "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."
Earlier Wednesday, Guglielmi confirmed that Smollett was being classified as a suspect in the investigation of his alleged attack, tweeting, "Case Update: Jussie Smollett is now officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation by #ChicagoPolice for filing a false police report (Class 4 felony). Detectives are currently presenting evidence before a Cook County Grand Jury."
Smollett's attorney previously denied those accusations, stating: "As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying... Jussie and his attorneys anticipate being further updated by the Chicago Police Department on the status of the investigation and will continue to cooperate."
Empire airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on Fox.
This post has been updated throughout as new developments in the Jussie Smollett case have emerged. Refresh for the latest.