As the evidence against him continues to mount, Empire actor Jussie Smollett is maintaining that he was in no way involved in the attack against him.
On Thursday, after Smollett was charged filing a false police report, TMZ reports that the actor paid his $100,000 bond and stopped by the Empire set, where he pleaded his innocence in front of the cast. In late January, Smollett alleged that he was beaten by two white men who yelled racist and homophobic slurs, but in the month since, Chicago police have come to believe that Smollett orchestrated the attack against himself because he was unhappy with his Empire salary.
“I’m sorry I’ve put you all through this and not answered any calls,” Smollett said, per 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.”
It was a sentiment that has been explicitly echoed by his lawyers, who assert that Smollett has been “betrayed” by the legal system. Following a press conference on Thursday, in which Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson claimed that Smollett sent himself a racist letter and paid brothers Olabinjo Osundairo and Abimbola Osundairo to stage an attack against him, Smollett’s attorneys released a statement defending their client’s “impeccable character and integrity.”
“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” the statement reads. “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.”
In the press conference, Johnson said Smollett had “[dragged] Chicago’s reputation through the mud” and expressed his disgust that an “African-American man [would] use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations.” If Smollett is found guilty, he could face up to three years in prison.