On early Thursday (Feb. 21) morning, Jussie Smollett turned himself into authorities to face felony charges of staging his own hate crime on Jan. 29. The "Empire" actor was released from Cook County jail that afternoon after paying $10,000 bond and surrendering his passport.
Shortly after his stint behind bars, Smollett returned to the set of "Empire" to film a scene which had been postponed due to his arrest. The 36-year-old reportedly arrived to set with family members and was visibly emotional. According to TMZ, Smollett apologized to his co-stars for the scandal and addressed the allegations that he lied about his attack.
"I'm sorry I've put you all through this and not answered any calls. 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," the actor told crew members. Smollett was reportedly so overcome with emotion that he had to come back later to finish his scene.
In his original report, Smollett told police he was assaulted by two white men wearing black ski masks who shouted racial and homophobic slurs at him. He also told officers one of his assailants shouted "This is MAGA country." According to Chicago PD, Smollett orchestrated the entire incident and part of his wounds were "most likely self-inflicted."
The actor is accused of paying two Nigerian men, who were previously extras on "Empire," $3,500 to attack him because he was dissatisfied with his salary on the show. No other motives have been released at press time.
Smollett's attorneys issued a statement Thursday (Feb. 21) evening aggressively defending their client against the recent charges. "Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system," the statement begins. "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."
The statement continues, "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 due back in court to enter his plea on March 14. If found guilty, he faces one to three years in prison.