Jussie Smollett 'Feels Betrayed by a System That Wants to Skip Due Process': Attorneys
"Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence," his attorneys said in a statement
Jussie Smollett is “fiercely” maintaining his innocence after he was released from jail.
In a scathing statement released by Smollett’s attorneys on Thursday and obtained by CBS Chicago reporter Charlie De Mar, the 36-year-old actor’s legal team says that “presumption of innocence … was trampled upon” in the Empire star’s case.
“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.”
The statement comes hours after Smollett, who claimed he was the subject of a racist and homophobic attack at the hands of two men on Jan. 29 in Chicago, 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; he 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 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 said 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 hate 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.
Later Thursday, after posting bond and being released from jail, Smollett returned to the Chicago set of Empire, the Fox drama in which he stars as main character Jamal Lyon.