Entertainment Celebrity Smollett’s Empire role in doubt after charges laid

Smollett’s Empire role in doubt after charges laid

Jussie Smollett told police he was the victim of a homophobic attack. Photo: Getty
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Sources say Fox is considering removing Jussie Smollett from production on Empire after he was charged on Wednesday in Chicago with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.

A spokesperson for 20th Century Fox Television declined to comment.

On January 29, Smollett told police that he was attacked by two men who poured an unknown chemical on him, put a rope around his neck, and used racial and homophobic slurs.

Local Chicago media reported the brothers told detectives that Smollett had paid them to stage the attack.

According to the Cook County State Attorney’s office, Smollett is due to appear in court for a bond hearing at 1.30pm Thursday.

Smollett is also scheduled to work Thursday on the Chicago set of Empire. According to a production source, as of Wednesday night there were no plans to change the show’s shooting schedule.

Fox had previously stood by Smollett, issuing two statements of support over the course of the investigation.

Police Department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office approved the felony charge on Wednesday afternoon. The charge is a Class Four felony that carries a possible prison sentence of  one to three years.

He had earlier declined to confirm reports subpoenas had been issued for the 36-year-old Smollett’s phone and bank records.

Police will now seek to arrest the actor.

Attorneys for Smollett, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, said they would mount an “aggressive defence” of their client, but didn’t reveal his whereabouts.

“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence,” Pugh and Henderson said in a statement.

Police couldn’t find surveillance video of the attack but questioned two men who were initially deemed as suspects, and who were released Friday.

The charges against Smollett were filed after the two men who allegedly took part in the scheme testified before a grand jury.

CBS 2 in Chicago obtained surveillance footage of the two brothers, Ola and Abel Osundairo, buying clothing that Smollett said they wore in the attack.

Two men who appear to be the Osundairos are seen with several items, including a red hat, black ski mask and gloves, on the counter for purchase.

Police said one of the men had appeared on Empire, and Smollett’s attorneys said one of the men is the actor’s personal trainer, whom he hired to help get him physically ready for a music video.

Smollett, who is black and came out as gay in 2015, made a tearful post-attack appearance on TV and said he’d been “forever changed” by the alleged assault.