Fox Says Jussie Smollett Staying on ‘Empire'; Chicago PD Rejects Hoax Reports

Jussie Smollett has been removed from the final two episodes of “Empire” Season 5, following his arrest on the charges of filing a false police report, the Fox hip-hop drama’s executive producers announced in a statement Friday.“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us,” read the statement from “Empire” co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, showrunner Brett Mahoney, and executive producers Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer.“Jussie has been an important member of our ‘Empire’ family for the past five years and we care about him deeply,” the statement continued. “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.”Also Read: Jussie Smollett 'Feels Betrayed,' Legal System 'Wants to Skip Due Process,' Actor's Reps SayRepresentatives for Smollett did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on the actor being dropped from the remainder of “Empire’s” fifth season.Smollett — who plays the openly gay Jamal Lyon on the series — surrendered himself to Chicago PD early Thursday morning, hours after he was formally charged with filing a false police report. He was released from police custody later that afternoon, after posting bail and surrendering his passport following a bond hearing in front of State of Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr.The actor’s bail was set at $100,000, with Smollett required to post $10,000 (10 percent) for release.Within hours of his release, Smollett returned to work on the set of Fox’s “Empire.” His next court date has been set for Thursday, March 14 at 11:30 a.m.Also Read: Jussie Smollett Returns to 'Empire' Set After Posting Bail in False Police Report CaseSmollett’s team released this statement Thursday night: “Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” read a statement put out on the actor’s behalf following his release from custody Thursday afternoon. “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.”As TheWrap previously reported, Smollett’s role had already been cut down on the remaining episodes of “Empire” Season 5. An individual close to Smollett told TheWrap on Thursday that, at that time, the actor still planned to be on set throughout the week, but cautioned that plans could change quickly amid his ongoing legal issues.The criminal case against Smollett stems from a report he filed on Jan. 29 that he was attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs and referenced “MAGA.” After releasing two former suspects over the weekend, police said they wanted to interview Smollett again — and days later declared him a suspect.Also Read: Jussie Smollett Bail Set at $100,000, Must Surrender PassportDuring a press conference Thursday morning, Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that Smollett staged the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.” Johnson also said Smollett sent the letter threatening himself to Fox, the “Empire” studio. When Johnson first made those statements, he did not mention its source or his proof.Minutes later, during the media conference’s Q&A portion, the police superintendent responded “yes” to a reporter who asked if that information came from brothers Olabinjo (“Ola”) and Abimbola (“Abel”) Osundairo, who were initially persons of interest and turned out to have both worked on “Empire.”Johnson also said the following of Smollett’s photographed wounds: “So, of course, it was staged. The brothers had on gloves during the staged attack where they punched him a little bit. But as far as we can tell, the scratches and bruising that you saw on his face were most likely self-inflicted.”In a later press conference, Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier detailed the prior relationship between Smollett and Abel Osundairo, saying that he was a source of “designer drugs” for Smollett and that they had been friends since late 2017. Lanier also detailed the timeline of events, including when and how Smollett convinced Abel, and later his brother, Ola, to stage an attack on him.Twentieth Century Fox said Thursday morning it was “considering our options” on 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.”A day earlier, the studio had renewed its support of Smollett, saying, “Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show.”Since Smollett’s first police report on Jan. 29, the investigation took many turns, with varying degrees of cooperation from Smollett.The brothers were released without charges last Friday after the police said “new evidence” had emerged and that the investigation’s “trajectory” had changed course. Earlier this week, CNN reported that Chicago police believed that Smollett might have paid the brothers to stage the attack.A week before Smollett reported the attack, Fox received a letter threatening Smollett. On Tuesday, ABC News reported that the FBI and U.S. Postal Service were looking into the possibility that Smollett had sent the threatening letter to himself, or played a role in its creation and delivery.Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the investigation Tuesday to avoid “potential questions of impartiality,” a rep for Foxx said. First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats has been set to act as prosecutor in her place.Read original story Fox Removes Jussie Smollett From Final 2 Episodes of ‘Empire’ Season 5 Following Arrest At TheWrap

The Chicago Police Department rejected two news reports Thursday that said investigators believe the attack reported by Jussie Smollett may have been staged. Meanwhile, Fox denied that Smollett was being written off “Empire.”

The hoax reports originated with two Chicago stations, one of which raised the possibility that Smollett staged the attack with two men to avoid being written off the show.

“Multiple sources tell @ABC7Chicago Eyewitness News Jussie Smollet and the 2 men who are being questioned by police staged the attack — allegedly because his character was being written out of the show Empire,” the affiliate’s reporter, Rob Elgas, tweeted.

Meanwhile, CBS Chicago reported Thursday that police raided the home of two persons of interest in the case on Wednesday night. The site said they are brothers of Nigerian descent who appeared as extras on Smollett’s show, “Empire.” The mens’ attorney, Gloria Schmidt, said they both know Smollett, CBS Chicago reported.

Also Read: Chicago PD Identifies Persons of Interest in Jussie Smollett Attack Investigation

Schmidt did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. Fox did not immediately respond to request for comment about whether the two men appeared on “Empire.”

“Media reports about the Empire incident being a hoax are unconfirmed by case detectives,” Chicago PD tweeted Thursday. “Supt Eddie Johnson has contacted @ABC7Chicago to state on the record that we have no evidence to support their reporting and their supposed CPD sources are uninformed and inaccurate.”

20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment added: “The idea that Jussie Smollett has been, or would be, written off of EMPIRE is patently ridiculous. He remains a core player on this very successful series and we continue to stand behind him.”

And Smollet’s rep, Pamela Sharp, told TheWrap: “Jussie is NOT being written off Empire. Today Jussie did answer routine followup questions for Chicago Police Department and continues to cooperate.”

Also Read: Jussie Smollett Has Been 'Doubly Victimized' by 'Media Industry and Broader Culture,' GLAAD Says

According to De Mar, the men left for Nigeria the day of the attack. De Mar also posted a search warrant receipt, which shows police took bleach, shoes and a laptop.

Twitter sleuths and some news organizations began floating theories that Smollett had faked the attack within days of him reporting it. He said two men beat him while shouting racist and homophobic slurs and referencing “MAGA.” Police said they had no reason to doubt him, but a public disagreement mounted between police and Smollett when he initially declined to hand over his phone. Officers wanted it to confirm that he was speaking to his manager during the attack.

Smollett handed over his phone records this week.

In a statement Tuesday, before the news reports with hoax speculation, GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said Smollett had been “doubly victimized” — first in the attack, and then later by “speculation” about the incident from the media.

This information is according to family who says home was ransacked. I asked family why they think police picked the two brothers up for questioning and they replied by saying the men left for #Nigeria the day of the attack. @cbschicago

— Charlie De Mar (@CharlieDeMar) February 14, 2019

Read original story Fox Says Jussie Smollett Staying on ‘Empire'; Chicago PD Rejects Hoax Reports At TheWrap