Bail has been set at $100,000 for US actor Jussie Smollett hours after being arrested for allegedly staging a racist and homophobic attack motivated by being unhappy with his salary and wanting to promote his career.
At Smollett’s first court appearance on Thursday (local time), a Chicago judge ordered Smollett be held on $100,000 bond, meaning he must post $10,000 to be released. The judge also directed Smollett to surrender his passport.
Chicago police said the Empire star’s arrest on Thursday (Wednesday local time) came after he turned himself in.
He was charged with filing a false police report when he told authorities he was attacked by two apparent Trump supporters on January 29.
If convicted, Smollett, a 36-year-old black, openly gay actor, could face a prison sentence of one to three years.
Smollett originally claimed the masked men beat him, made derogatory comments and yelled “This is MAGA country” – an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan – before looping a rope around his neck.
Prosecutors allege that Smollett orchestrated the attack, right down to the nitty gritty details of where it took place.
They allege Smollett hired two brothers of Nigerian descent to yell out the racial and homophobic slurs.
Prosecutors also allege that Smollett provided them with $US100 ($80) for supplies including rope, ski masks, gloves and red baseball hats resembling the “Make America Great Again” hats.
Smollett reportedly kept his eyes shut for the majority of the hearing which drew a large crowd of reporters.
Mr Trump demanded an apology after the arrest, saying Smollett insulted millions of Americans with his “racist and dangerous comments”.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2019
“Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.
“How can an individual who has been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?,” he asked.
Superintendent Johnson said Smollett allegedly paid $US3500 ($4925) to stage the attack.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office approved felony criminal charges against Smollett for disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.
Sources close to the production told Variety, Fox producers are weighing whether to suspend the actor from production on “Empire”.
Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television, which make the hip hop drama Empire, issued a statement saying they were “evaluating the situation”.
“We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options,” they said in a statement.
“We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.” – STATEMENT FROM 20TH CENTURY FOX TELEVISION AND FOX ENTERTAINMENT
— 20th Century Fox TV (@20centuryfoxTV) February 21, 2019
Superintendent Johnson maintained that police had treated Smollett as a victim until the two brothers they arrested last week admitted to helping stage the attack.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says Jussie Smollett "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career."
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 21, 2019
Police did not spell out how Smollett hoped to boost his salary by staging a supposed attack by supporters of Mr Trump.
“Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Superintendent Johnson told a news conference.
“This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with this salary. He concocted a story about being attacked.
“We gave him the benefit of the doubt.”
Los Angeles LGBT centre released a statement saying, “the confusing and deeply unfortunate circumstances surrounding Jussie Smollett should not cloud the sobering facts about hate crimes in our nation”.
Many celebrities who were outspoken with their support for Smollett on social media, including Jordan Peele, Michael B. Jordan, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, have since taken down their posts in light of his arrest.
Others celebrities including Lena Waithe and Lee Daniels have kept up their posts with actress Yvette Nicole-Brow saying on Twitter: “I won’t delete it. It’s how I felt. I don’t hide from how I feel or what I stand for, even as situations change”.
I’ve been vocal about this situation & my love for Jussie & his entire family. I will continue to hope for the best for everyone involved as things continue to unfold. And I, like all of you, will watch them unfold. But believing victims is always the right choice. Always. ❤️
— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) February 21, 2019
Fox had previously stood by Smollett, issuing two statements of support over the course of the investigation.