Jussie Smollett Removed from Final 2 Episodes of Empire Season 5 to 'Avoid Disruption' on Set
Jussie Smollett has been accused of filing a false report claiming two men attacked him in an apparent hate crime last month
In a new statement obtained by PEOPLE on Friday, the Fox show’s executive producers announced that the actor’s character Jamal Lyon will be removed from the final two episodes of season 5.
“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us,” said Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer. “Jussie has been an important member of our EMPIRE family for the past five years and we care about him deeply. While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of ‘Jamal’ from the final two episodes of the season.”
On Thursday, Chicago police held a press conference in which they alleged Smollett paid $3,500 to stage a “bogus” attack against him to draw attention to himself because he was dissatisfied with his salary. A source denied to PEOPLE that Smollett, 36, had any sort of issue with his pay, saying, “There’s never been a dissatisfaction with his salary.”
Smollett, who is black and gay, is facing a felony charge of disorderly conduct. If convicted, he could serve up to three years in prison.
He was arrested on Thursday morning after turning himself in to police, one day after he was charged. He presented in bond court on Thursday afternoon, where a judge set his 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.
Smollett has maintained his innocence. In a statement released by his attorneys on Thursday and obtained by CBS Chicago reporter Charlie De Mar, the actor’s legal team said 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 began. “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. 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’s legal team previously said they are gearing up to launch an “aggressive defense” in light of the charge.
“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,” attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”