Jussie Smollett Allegedly Instructed Men to Yell Slurs and 'This is MAGA Country' in Staged Attack
The Empire star, 36, was present in bond court on Thursday afternoon, just hours after turned himself into police. He was dressed in a black jacket with his hands clasped behind his back. Smollett’s family members were also present in the courtroom.
Judge John F. Lyke Jr. set Smollett’s bond at $100,000 and was released after posting $10,000 bond. He has also been asked to surrender his passport. His next hearing is scheduled for March 14.
Text messages between Smollett and brothers Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo that detailed how the 45-second attack was to be allegedly orchestrated were read in court.
“Smollett texted Abel stating, ‘Might need your help on the low. You around to meet up and talk face to face?’ ” according to the bond proffer from prosecutors obtained by multiple news outlets. “Smollett then stated that he wanted to stage an attack where Abel would appear to batter him. Smollett also suggested that Ola assist him with the attack.”
According to prosecutors, once the brothers told Smollett they “could trust” him, the actor allegedly stated he “wanted them to appear to attack him, to “catch his attention by calling him an ‘Empire F—– Empire N—-,’ and “not hurt him too badly and give him a chance to appear to fight back.”
In addition, Smollett allegedly texted that he “wanted Ola to place a rope around his neck, pour gasoline on him and yell ‘This is MAGA country,’ ” also allegedly instructing the men to purchase red baseball caps which resemble the ones that say President Donald Trump‘s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
Trump reacted to Smollett’s case on Thursday, tweeting: “What about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments?”
Smollett and his legal team are gearing up to launch an “aggressive defense,” according to his attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson.
“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,” Pugh and Henderson in a statement given to PEOPLE on Wednesday. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
If Smollett is found guilty, falsifying a police report is a Class 4 felony which carries a potential sentence of up to three years in prison.
In the initial report about the alleged Jan. 29 attack, the openly gay black actor claimed to police that he’d been physically attacked on the street in his downtown Chicago neighborhood around 2 a.m. local time on Jan. 29 by two black-clad, masked men who hurled racist and homophobic slurs, doused him with an “unknown chemical substance” and left him with a rope around his neck.
Smollett, who was given the presumption of being a victim until the latter stages of the investigation, is now the third person arrested in the case.
Brothers Abel and Ola — who were seen on surveillance footage the night of the incident and later questioned by police — were arrested and questioned by police last week but were released after telling police about the alleged hoax.
Authorities allege Smollett of paying the men $3,500 to stage a “bogus” hate crime attack against him to draw attention to himself because the actor was dissatisfied with his salary.
RELATED VIDEO: Jussie Smollett Allegedly Paid $3,500 to Stage Attack Because He Was Unhappy with Salary: Police
During a Thursday press conference, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson alleged Smollett sent a false letter to himself on the Fox show’s set “that relied on racial, homophobic and political language.” Subsequently, said Johnson, Smollett allegedly choreographed the attack “because he was dissatisfied with his salary.”
One of the brothers worked on Empire, said Johnson, who added that Smollett allegedly chose them because of their “bulk.” Johnson said the brothers hit Smollett a few times, but most of Smollett’s injuries were “self-inflicted.”
A statement from 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment to PEOPLE on Thursday reads: “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options.”