‘These allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out…’
(AFP) Actor Jussie Smollett, whom police have accused of orchestrating a bogus assault for personal gain, is being removed from the final two episodes of this season of the TV show “Empire,” producers said Friday.
Chicago police claim Smollett, who is gay and black, engineered an elaborate hoax in late January to gain publicity and a bigger paycheck, sending himself a hate-filled letter and then hiring two people to stage a racist and homophobic attack on him in downtown Chicago.
The producers of the Fox television program, on which Smollett plays the character Jamal Lyon, had repeatedly expressed their support for the actor prior to the police allegations that the attack was a hoax.
But on Friday, they said in a statement that they had “decided to remove the role” from the final two episodes of the current season “to avoid further disruption on set.”
It was not immediately clear if Smollett might return in a future season of the program.
“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us,” the producers said while adding that Smollett was “an important member of our EMPIRE family.”
“While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out.”
Smollett was arrested Thursday and charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report.
He was freed on a $100,000 bond.
The actor’s lawyers maintained his innocence and accused law enforcement of wanting to “skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”
The case has drawn intense national interest with everyone from politicians to celebrities and late night talk show hosts jumping to conclusions that Smollett’s outlandish and highly implausible claims were true.
Law enforcement officials said the allegations against the actor were backed by evidence such as a cashed check, text messages and phone records.
© Agence France-Presse