Jussie Smollett is maintaining his innocence.
The 36-year-old was arrested Thursday morning for allegedly staging an attack on himself nearly one month ago. Chicago police say Smollett orchestrated the assault because he was "dissatisfied with his salary" on Empire; however, the actor's representatives insist their client was not complicit in the attack and suggested his prosecution was politically motivated.
"Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system," his legal team wrote in a statement Thursday night. "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."
Smollett is facing up to three years in prison for allegedly filing a false police report on Jan. 29. He told authorities he was attacked by two masked men at around 2 a.m. that day in Chicago. Smollett said the perpetrators put a rope around his neck, poured a substance on him, and yelled homophobic, racial slurs during the attack. He also claimed that one of the men shouted, "This is MAGA country" before fleeing the scene.
Soon after authorities began investigating the incident as a possible hate crime, officers arrested Ola and Abel Osundairo in connection with the attack. The two brothers, who worked with Smollett on Empire, were eventually released without any charges. Ola and Abel reportedly told authorities Smollett had paid them $3,500 to help stage the attack. During Smollett's bail hearing Thursday, prosecutors presented evidence that suggested Osundairos' claims were true. Text messages and phone records between the men were detailed in court documents, as were the brothers' accounts.
"Might need your help on the low," Smollett allegedly texted Abel in Jan. 25. "You around to meet up and talk face-to-face?"
Chicago police also say they have the $3,500 check Smollett had given the Osundairos before the bogus attack.
"Why would anyone, especially an African American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?" Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson told reporters Thursday. "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? How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?"
Smollett is due back in court March 14.