A Chicago judge set Jussie Smollett’s bond at $100,000 on Thursday and ordered him to surrender his passport, hours after a remarkable Chicago Police Department press conference in which Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson blasted the ‘Empire’ star, saying that Smollett’s alleged staging of a hoax attack was a “publicity stunt…to promote his career.”
The weeks-long investigation into the alleged hate crime attack –- an alarming account that sizzled with a spectrum of hot button issues ranging from race, sexuality and politics to crime and celebrity — riveted and distressed a deeply-divided nation.
Standing before Cook County Circuit Court Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke, Jr., Smollett appeared to remain steadfast in his refutation of the felony charge against him. He has repeatedly insisted that the attack was real and that he was merely a victim, not a perpetrator. If convicted of felony disorderly conduct for filing a false report, the actor faces up to three years in prison.
When first assistant state attorney Risa Lanier told Lyke that the actor had picked up two brothers who authorities say carried out the staged attack on him at his direction and showed them the location of where he wanted to be attacked, Smollett shook his head in disagreement.
When Lyke told Smollett that the allegations, if true, are “utterly outrageous,” the actor nodded his head in agreement — doing so again when Lyke said the noose detail would be the most despicable part of the alleged scheme.
The judge also ordered pre-trial monitoring of the actor, and ordered him to stay away from the two brothers he allegedly conspired with to stage the hoax attack, according to police.
Smollett’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 14.
The tense courtroom appearance followed on the heels of a morning press conference at which a visibly angry Johnson castigated the actor for betraying his race and his city with such an incendiary false claim.
“Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” a visibly angry Johnson said. “I am left hanging my head asking ‘why?’. Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? … How can an individual who’s been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in the city in the face with these false claims?”
Johnson charged that Smollett, an actor on the hit show ‘Empire’ who has consistently denied any role in staging the alleged attack, orchestrated it because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.”
In addition to staging the attack, officials said, Smollett also sent himself a hate-filled letter to the Fox studio where the hit show is filmed.(MORE: How Jussie Smollett relentlessly defended his story against a storm of skepticism)
Smollett turned himself in at 5:15 a.m. local time and made a statement to police before being taken into custody. His lawyers, Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson, were not present at the time but they released a statement the night before.
“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. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
Thursday evening, the attorneys released a statement criticizing law enforcement’s handling of the case.
“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system. 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 read. “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.”
Police add that Smollett gave no statement to police after turning himself in and that his lawyers had reached out to them Wednesday night to discuss his surrender. Smollett wanted to turn himself in near midnight, but authorities suggested he come in at 5 a.m. instead, to avoid spending the night in jail. Smollett arrived early Thursday morning accompanied by a female lawyer and an entourage of five or six people.
Smollett was silent as he went through the motions of being booked and processed.
By late morning on Thursday, the backlash against the actor began at the top, with an angry tweet from the President of the United States.
“.@JussieSmollett – what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA” President Donald Trump wrote in a tweet after the press conference.
In an earlier interview with ABC News, Smollett was asked why he thought he was targeted and he replied that he is a strident critic of the Trump administration.
“I come really really hard against 45,” he said. referring to Trump, the 45th U.S. president. “I come really really hard against his administration, and I don’t hold my tongue.”Follow @nydjlive