Jussie Smollett Heads to 'Empire' Set After Posting Bond for Alleged Hate Crime Hoax
By Desiree Murphy
Jussie Smollett is back on the Empire set after posting $10,000 of his $100,000 bond.
Two sources tell ET that the actor headed to the location where the FOX show films in Chicago on Thursday. The visit came shortly after Smollett appeared in court for a hearing after police arrested him for allegedly filing a false police report in which he claimed he was the victim of a hate crime on Jan. 29. According to the bond slip from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, the bond deposit was posted by Lauren Criddle, who is listed as a friend. Smollett was also asked to surrender his passport.
Smollett has maintained that he is a victim and again denied all the allegations via his attorney on Thursday. His next hearing is set for March 14.
A source close to the Empire production team told ET earlier Thursday that a meeting with FOX was expected to happen today to discuss Smollet's future with the show.
"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," Smollett's lawyers, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, told ET at the time. "Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense."
In a press conference held shortly after his arrest, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department Eddie T. Johnson claimed that Smollett staged his alleged attack to promote his career. Johnson alleged that the actor paid $3,500 to stage an attack because he was "dissatisfied" with his Empire salary. Johnson also alleged that Smollett concocted the threatening letter he received prior to the alleged attack that contained homophobic and racist language, and when that "didn't work," went ahead with the alleged attack.
"As far as we can tell, the scratching and bruising that you saw on his face were most likely self-inflicted," Johnson alleged. " ... Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career."
"How can an individual who has been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face?" he continued. "Bogus police reports cause real harm. They cause harm to legitimate victims who are in need of support by police and by investigators as well as the citizens in the city. I'm offended by what's happened and I'm also angry."
A source close to production tells ET that Smollett's Empire salary is significantly higher than initial reports of $65,000 an episode and that the actors all got significant raises early in the show’s life when it became a big hit. If Smollett was unhappy with his salary, it was not commonly known, the source shares, and to the source's knowledge, he did not voice any complaints about his salary on Empire.
Hear more in the video below.
Reporting by Brendon Geoffrion and Emily Lefkowitz.