JUSSIE Smollett reportedly headed straight to the Empire set to plead with cast members after being released on £76,000 ($100,000) bail.
The actor has been charged with staging a ‘racist and homophobic’ street attack in Chicago to promote his career.
AP:Associated Press Chicago police earlier released a mug shot of the shamed actor
After being released on bail, sources told TMZ that Jussie arrived late on the Empire set and then begged his cast mates to believe he did not orchestrate the hoax.
“I’m sorry I’ve put you all through this and not answered any calls,” he said, according to TMZ.
“I wanted to say I’m sorry and, you know me, I would never do this to any of you, you are my family. I swear to God, I did not do this.”
Earlier on Thursday, the actor was told to surrender his passport when he appeared in front of State of Illinois Circuit Court Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr.
The judge called the hate-crime hoax allegations against the star “utterly outrageous,” reports the New York Post.
“The most violent, despicable part of it, if true, is the noose,” he said. “That symbol conjures up such evil in this country’s history.”
During the court hearing, prosecutor Risa Lanier read aloud a four-page document outlining the mountain of evidence cops compiled while investigating Smollett’s claims.
Smollett, who was wearing a black puffa-style jacket, spoke only to give his name during the hearing as his family stood by.
He was represented by an attorney from Geragos & Geragos law firm.
Earlier Smollett was slammed by Chicago police today for “taking advantage of the pain and anger of racism” to promote his career.
The Empire actor is in custody and could face three years in jail after he was sensationally charged with staging an elaborate street assault so he could play victim.
He has also been accused of sending himself a note containing a cartoon figure strung up by a noose and cut-out letters spelling: “You will die, black f*g”.
Smollett claimed the note was a threat before two Trump fans in MAGA hats shouted racist and homophobic abuse, beat him up and left him with a rope round his neck.
AP:Associated Press In this courtroom sketch, Smollett, appears in from before Cook County Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr
AP:Associated Press Smollett, right, leaves Cook County jail following his release
Today cop chief Eddie Johnson said the actor faked the whole thing because he wanted to boost his profile and pay packet.
He said: “Smollett attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language.
“When that didn’t work, Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack.
“This morning not only do I come to you as the superintendent of Chicago police department, but also as a black man who has spent his whole life living in the city.
“This announcement today recognises that Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.
“I’m left hanging my head asking why.
“Why would anyone, especially an African American man use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations.
“How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile.
“I’m offended by what has happened and I’m also angry.”
President Trump tweeted today: “@jussiesmollett – what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA”
Cops grew suspicious as holes began to appear in the actor’s story following the alleged attack in Chicago last month and a tearful TV interview as he told of his ordeal.
CCTV footage emerged showing two brothers with links to Smollett buying ski masks, bandanas and red hats just a day before the “attack”.
In a sensational development on Wednesday night, Chicago Police announced Smollett had been charged with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said on Twitter: “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.”
This morning Guglielmi added: “Jussie Smollet is under arrest and in custody of detectives.”
Smollett is due in court later today. He could face up to three years in prison if convicted under Illinois law.
Responding to the charge, Smollett’s lawyers Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said they planned to mount an “aggressive defence”.
In a joint statement, they said: “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 defence.”
Empire extras Ola Osundairo, 27, and brother Abel, 25, were allegedly paid more than £3,000 by the actor to attack him.
On Wednesday they appeared before a Grand Jury – which decides whether to bring charges in big cases – for two and a half hours to testify against Smollett.
The brothers’ lawyer Gloria Schmidt later told reporters they laid out how Smollett “put them up to the fake assault”, TMZ reported.
The shocking twist in the case comes just days after A-list celebs flooded social media with their support for the 36-year-old.
Brit catwalk queen Naomi Campbell — who starred in hip-hop drama Empire — called on Chicago’s mayor to catch the “despicable people” who had committed this “act of hate”.
Oscar-winner Viola Davis also shared a photo of the actor on Instagram, saying: “OMG!! This is why the LGBTQ community continue to fight to be seen and protected against hate!
“We ALL have to take this racist and homophobic act of violence very personally! My arms are around you @jussiesmollett. You are loved!”
And TV host Ellen DeGeneres, referring to an interview when the actor revealed he was gay, said: “Four years ago, @JussieSmollett came out on my show. I’m sending him and his family so much love today.”
I noticed the rope around my neck and I started screaming: ‘There is a f***ing rope around my neckJussie Smollett
Smollett, who was treated in hospital, had initially told police that his “attackers” were yelling racial and homophobic slurs.
And he claimed they made reference to “MAGA” – the “Make America Great Again” election catchphrase used by President Trump.
Last week a tearful Smollett, who also starred in 1992 kids’ movie The Mighty Ducks, told Good Morning America he was attacked at 2am while speaking on the phone to his manager.
He said: “I was crossing the intersection . . . I heard ‘Empire!’ I don’t answer to Empire. My name ain’t Empire.”
Smollett said he heard one of them utter a racial slur, and added: “So I turned around and said, ‘What the f*** did you just say to me?’ I see the attacker masked.”
Getting emotional, Smollett continued: “He said: ‘This MAGA country n*****’. And he punched me in the face so I punched his ass back.”DOUBTS SWIRL
Smollett said a second person kicked him in his back. They threw a bleach-like substance in his face and tied a rope round his neck, he claimed.
Choking up, Smollett told the interviewer: “I will never be the man that this did not happen to. I am forever changed.”
But doubts about the authenticity of the attack were quickly raised after the actor refused to hand over his phone to detectives.
Cops were also curious as to why the rope was still around Smollett’s neck when they arrived on the scene 30 minutes later.
He also asked responding officers to turn off their body cameras and come into his apartment — because he said he did not want neighbours witnessing the scene.
But frustrated Smollett insisted: “It feels like if I had said it was a Muslim or a Mexican or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot more.”
His story unravelled after cops arrested two black men with connections to him.Ola — who had worked as an extra on Empire — and Abel were released when officers revealed new evidence had come to light and they were “eager to speak to” Smollett.
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Cops are now understood to believe the star paid the men £2,700 to attack him and £390 when they returned from holiday in Nigeria.
Sources told website TMZ the trio even rehearsed the assault.
Following their release last week, the two brothers said: “We are not racist. We are not homophobic, and we are not anti-Trump.”
AP:Associated Press The actor, dressed all in black in the centre, is escorted to the court’s gates
Reuters Smollet’s defence attorneys and family members leave the court house after his bond hearing
Jussie Smollett says there has never been a ‘closet to come out from’ on The Ellen DeGeneres Show
BackGrid Tearful Jussie Smollett gave a TV interview claiming he was assaulted by two racist thugs
Chief communications officer for Chicago Police tweeted an update over the alleged fake attack
Twitter Empire director Lee Daniels shared this image of Jussie on Instagram after the attack but deleted it
AP:Associated Press Jussie Smollett, second from left, with co-stars from hip-hop drama Empire
The Mega Agency News of the bizarre twist has made headlines in the US
Instagram Brothers Olabinjo ‘Ola’ Osundairo, 27, and Abimbola ‘Abel’ Osundairo, 25, were held by cops but later released
AP:Associated Press Cops released CCTV footage of two suspects after the ‘attack’ in Chicago
Alamy Jussie plays gay character Jamal Lyon in hit hip-hop drama Empire
Cardi B says she’s ‘disappointed’ in Empire actor Jussie Smollett after police sources claim he fabricated a racial and homophobic ‘attack’
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