"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett staged a racist, anti-gay attack on himself because he was unhappy about his salary and wanted to promote his career, Chicago's police superintendent said Thursday.
Smollett appeared in court Thursday, where his bail was set at $100,000 with pretrial monitoring. The visibly frustrated Smollett sighed and rolled his eyes during the bond hearing, according to reports from the courtroom.
Just before 4 p.m., he was seen leaving the Cook County Jail surrounded by security who led him to a black SUV. Smollett said nothing as he left the jail surrounded by a swarm of reporters and cameramen.
“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system," his legal team said in a statement. "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, who is black and gay, turned himself in Thursday to face accusations that he filed a false police report last month when he told authorities he was attacked in downtown Chicago by two men who hurled racist and anti-gay slurs and looped a rope around his neck, police said.
Before the attack, police also say Smollett sent a letter that threatened him to the studio in Chicago where "Empire" is shot, Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.
The actor "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," Johnson told reporters at a news conference.
"This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn't earn and certainly didn't deserve," he added.
Read the full proffer from court below.
The FBI has been investigating the letter. Johnson would not say whether Smollett could face additional charges for that.
The companies that make "Empire," Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television, issued a statement Thursday saying that they were "evaluating the situation" and "considering our options."
President Trump also tweeted about Smollett following the press conference. "@JussieSmollett - what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!? #MAGA"
Smollett turned himself into police early Thursday morning on a felony charge of disorderly conduct in filing a false police report. He is expected to appear in bond court at 1:30 p.m.
Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi confirmed to NBC Chicago that Smollett surrendered to police at around 5 a.m. at CPD's Central Booking station at West 18th Street and South State Street.
The "Empire" star was charged Wednesday with the class four felony, which carries a sentence ranging from probation to up to three years in prison, according to Chicago police and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office.
"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," Smollett's legal team said in a statement Wednesday. "Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense."
Chicago police have confirmed that attorneys for Smollett had discussions with prosecutors Wednesday, but details surrounding the dialogue were not released.
Authorities said new information "shifted" their investigation of the reported assault last week.
Smollett said two masked men physically attacked him as he was returning home from an early morning stop at a Subway restaurant. He said the men shouted racial, anti-gay slurs and "This is MAGA country!" as they looped a rope around his neck and poured an "unknown chemical substance" on him before running away.
Detectives questioned two brothers about the attack but released them late Friday without charges. Police said they had gleaned new information from their interrogation of the two men and they were no longer suspects.
Surveillance video taken at 10 a.m. on Jan. 28 appears to show brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo shopping at Beauty House at 1041 W. Wilson Ave. in the Uptown neighborhood.
The brothers can be seen making their way to the check out counter and purchasing several items, including two ski masks, gloves and baseball caps. The video then shows them walking to their vehicle.
The items are of interest because police said Smollett told them the attackers were wearing masks. The security guard working that day told NBC 5 he realized the brothers had been in the store last week and that he had helped them find the items they were looking for.
"This has been very traumatizing for them as well as everyone who knows this story and has heard this story," said Gloria Schmidt, attorney for the Osundairo brothers.
On Tuesday, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the investigation into the alleged attack with little explanation.
"Out of an abundance of caution, the decision to recuse herself was made to address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case," a spokesperson said in an emailed statement Tuesday.
A statement from 20th Century Fox Television and Fox Entertainment issued Wednesday - before the charges were announced - said that despite the ongoing case, Smollett's character was "not being written out of the show."
"Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show," Fox said of Smollett.
"Chicago's message to the world is that no matter where you come from, who you love, or how you pray you will always have a home here. Our laws exist to reflect and defend those values, and hate crimes will never be tolerated," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. "A single individual who put their perceived self-interest ahead of these shared principles will never trump Chicago's collective spirit."