Tyler Perry Is 'Hoping' Jussie Smollett Didn't Stage Attack: 'Right Now, It's a Wait and See'
Jussie Smollett faces a felony charge of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false report claiming two men attacked him in an apparent hate crime last month
During an interview with the Today show on Wednesday, the filmmaker said he has spoken to Smollett, 36, and that the Empire actor insists that the allegations aren’t true.
“Listen, he is so adamant about it and he is so convincing in his story that I’m hoping and standing with him, hoping that it all turns out in his favor, for sure,” said Perry, 49.
Perry also referenced the cases of Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos, two men who disappeared after allegedly being picked up by a Florida sheriff’s deputy 15 years ago.
“I’ve been fighting for justice for Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos … so I wish that that case could have gotten half the attention that the Jussie Smollett thing [got],” he said. “But listen, everybody that knows him — he’s adamant that he’s telling the truth. Everybody that knows him that I know, they all say he’s not the type of person that would ever do that. So it’s pretty confusing, so right now it’s a wait and see.”
Last week, 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 has denied to PEOPLE that Smollett had any sort of issue with his pay, saying, “There’s never been a dissatisfaction with his salary.”)
Smollett, who is black and gay, was arrested last week after turning himself in to police, one day after he was charged. He presented in bond court on Feb. 21, 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.
He’s facing a felony charge of disorderly conduct. If convicted, he could serve up to three years in prison.
Smollett has maintained his innocence. In a statement released by his attorneys after the press conference, 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.”
Appearing on Good Morning America this week, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said there is “a lot more evidence that hasn’t been presented yet that does not support his innocence,” citing “physical [evidence], video and testimony.”
Smollett’s Empire character Jamal Lyon has since been removed from the final two episodes of season 5 to “avoid further disruption on set,” the Fox show’s executive producers said in a statement.