Empire Creator Lee Daniels Says the Cast Is 'Upset' in the Wake of Jussie Smollett's Case
"The cast is upset. It is a sad time and we are slowly healing," Lee Daniels says about Jussie Smollett's case
Jussie Smollett‘s on-camera family is continuing to both heal and process in the wake of his scandal.
“The cast is upset. It is a sad time and we are slowly healing,” Empire creator Lee Daniels told Extra on Tuesday, nearly one month after charges against the actor were dropped after he allegedly staged a hate crime.
While Daniels, 59, said that “the lesson is still to be learned” from the incident, he said that he is choosing not to judge Smollett.
“What I am learning right now is that I can’t judge. That that judgement is for that man wearing that black coat with a gavel and God. I can only support him because he is like my son, he is my son, so I am with him,” said Daniels.
Added Daniels. “I can only support him and I can only give him compassion.”
The actor, who stars as Jamal Lyon on the Fox drama, told police he’d been attacked on the street in downtown Chicago around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 by two masked men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs, poured an “unknown chemical substance” on him and placed a rope around his neck.
Smollett, 36, was arrested Feb. 20 after an investigation, and indicted on 16 counts of disorderly conduct for making false reports.
In March, Smollett, who has faced intense scrutiny and backlash, pleaded not guilty to allegations that he lied to police when he said he was attacked by two men in what authorities later claimed was a staged incident to draw attention to himself.
Police previously accused the star of paying $3,500 to stage a “bogus” attack on himself because he was unhappy with his Empire salary, though a source denied any dissatisfaction with money to PEOPLE.
In late March, all charges were dropped against the star. He then spoke out and insisted that he has been telling the truth about the attack since the very beginning. “I’ve been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one,” he told reporters at the Cook County courthouse in Chicago. “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of doing what I was accused of.”
His attorneys, Tina Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes, also released a statement to PEOPLE saying, “Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th. He was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgment.”
Glandian and Holmes added, “Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions,” it continued. “This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion. This is wrong. It is a reminder that the victim, in this case Jussie, deserves dignity and respect. Dismissal of charges against the victim in this case was the only just result.”
Despite the charges being dropped, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office did not, however, fully retreat from its initial decision to bring charges against Smollett or otherwise address PEOPLE’s inquiry on whether prosecutors still believe he staged the attack, saying in a follow-up statement: “We stand by the Chicago Police Department’s investigation and our approval of charges.”
If Smollett had been tried and found guilty of falsifying a police report, the Class 4 felony carried a potential sentence of up to three years in prison.
Earlier this month, Smollett was sued by the City of Chicago after it allegedly spent more than $130,000 “in overtime costs to investigate” his alleged January attack, according to a new lawsuit.
Smollett’s attorney did not respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.