‘Empire’ Cast and Crew are Divided Over Whether Jussie Smollett Should be Allowed to Come Back

Actor Jussie Smollett speaks to reporters at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago after prosecutors dropped all charges against him, Tuesday

Jussie Smollett will ‘stay quiet for a while’ after charges linked to a fake race hate attack he allegedly staged in Chicago were sensationally dropped.

The actor will shun the spotlight while he focuses on his work and a return to the show Empire after being dropped for the final two episodes of last season.

Speaking to CNN’s Brian Selter, a source close to the actor added: ‘Empire hasn’t been picked up for another season yet but if it does, there is no reason not to expect Jussie to be in the cast.’

Smollett will also get back to singing, other acting gigs, and will spend time ‘getting his life back together.’

However, cast and crew on the show itself remain bitterly divided over whether he should be allowed back on set.

Some, especially among the writing staff, believe he has been vindicated and that he was the victim of a vicious smear by police – while others are convinced he staged the attack, say he is a liability, and want him sacked, TMZ reports.

20th Century Fox, the network behind Empire, has not yet made an announcement on the future of Empire or Jussie’s role within it.

However, a spokesman did say that bosses were ‘gratified’ that the case against him had been dropped.

‘Jussie Smollett has always maintained his innocence and we are gratified that all charges against him have been dismissed,’ the network told DailyMail.com in a statement Tuesday.

The second half of Season 5 returned to the air March 13 but a month ago Fox announced viewers would see less of Smollett than originally planned due to the allegations from Chicago Police Department that he’d filed false hate crime reports.

Co-creators Lee Daniels and Brett Mahoney said at the time: ‘The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us.

‘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.’

Executive producers Danny Strong, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer joined in saying the allegations from CPD were having an effect on those who star in the show

Empire’s cast includes Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson and Gabourey Sidibe.

The statement continued: ‘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.’

Despite the charges being dropped, Chicago police and Mayor Rahm Emanuel held a press conference to repeat their claims that Smollett’s accusations were ‘bogus’.

Emanuel, speaking alongside Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson, described the case as a ‘whitewash of justice’ and said Smollett got off ‘scot-free’ because he is famous.

The actor’s legal team at the time said the CPD’s conference ‘witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system’.

On Tuesday he escaped a possible 48-year prison sentence.

Moments after his court appearance, the Empire actor gave no other explanation for the attack, but said: ‘I have been truthful and consistent on every single level since day one. I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of even one drop of what I have been accused of.

‘This has been an incredibly difficult time, honestly one of the worst of my entire life. But I am a man of faith and I am a man that has knowledge of my history.’

An unwavering Smollett added: ‘I would not bring my family, our lives or the movement through a fire like this. I just wouldn’t.’

It didn’t take long for Chicago’s mayor and chief police officer to hit back at his claims of innocence.

They slammed prosecutors’ decision to drop all charges against him on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference with the equally enraged Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson on Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel insisted repeatedly that Smollett was guilty of staging a hoax attack on January 29 and that he did it for a pay raise on Empire.

‘Without a doubt this is a whitewash of justice and sends a clear message that if you are in a position of influence and power, you’ll be treated one way.

He went on to condemn Smollett for speaking out after the court hearing and protesting his innocence.

‘Mr. Smollett is still saying that he is innocent, still running down the Chicago Police Department… how dare him. How dare him after everybody saw. Is there no decency in this man?’

Johnson, who publicly condemned Smollett last month and said his lies were ‘despicable’, also slammed the star for asking that the evidence be sealed.

‘I would want my day in court to clear my name. They wanted their day in court with TV cameras,’ he said, referring to Smollett’s team allowing cameras in the courtroom.

Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts that were returned by a grand jury which Emanuel said it proved that it was not just the police department which thought he was guilty.

‘Public safety is our number one priority. I don’t see Jussie Smollett as a threat to public safety,’ Joe Magats, Assistant State’s Attorney, told The New York Times.

Assistant State’s Attorney Joe Magats said he had decided to drop the charges because Smollett was not a violent threat to the community

Smollett claimed he was attacked on January 29 by two men he said he could not identify and who he said called him racial and homophobic slurs.

On Tuesday, an emergency hearing was scheduled during which the charges were suddenly dropped. Smollett agreed to surrender his $10,000 bond but walked out of court a free man.

There is no doubt that brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo attacked him but so far, no other motive other than that Smollett asked them to and paid them to do it has emerged.

He refused to say whether he planned to fight against Chicago Police Department or the prosecutor’s office for accusing him of staging the attack, but said he would continue to ‘fight for justice’ and for the ‘marginalized’ people of the world.

It remains unclear what prompted the decision but the Cook County’s State’s Attorney’s office said it was due in part to Smollett’s ‘volunteer service in the community.’

On Tuesday morning, a spokesman told DailyMail.com it was confident in the police investigation into him and still satisfied with its decision to bring charges but would not say why then he was not being prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Smollett was initially indicted by prosecutors with just one charge but a grand jury added another 15 on to it for every time he allegedly lied.

The actor was accused of paying brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo to attack him on January 29 outside his apartment at around 2am as he walked home from a Subway.

He claimed that he did not recognize the attackers but said they called him a ‘f****t’, n****r’ and shouted: ‘This is MAGA country!’

For weeks, police insisted Smollett was still the victim but gradually, suspicion grew as details of the probe were leaked including the fact that he had not agreed to hand over his phone for police to search.

Eventually, on February 21, Smollett was arrested.

They took the unusual step of publishing his full bond proffer which detailed all the evidence they said they had against him, including phone calls between him and the brothers before and after the attack.

They also used a check he’d given them, purportedly for personal training, as apparent proof that he paid them for the attack.

In a statement on Tuesday morning, Smollett’s lawyers revealed the news that the charges had been dropped.

‘Today, all charges against Jussie Smollett were dropped and his record has been wiped clean of the filing of the complaint against him.

‘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 judgement.

‘Jussie and many others were hurt by these unfair and unwarranted actions.

‘This entire situation is a reminder that there should never be an attempt to prove a case in the court of public opinion.

‘That is wrong. It is a reminder that as a victim, in this case Jussie, deserves dignity and respect.

‘Dismissal of charges against the victim in this case was the only just result.

‘Jussie is relieved to have this situation behind him and is very much looking forward to getting back to focusing on his family, friends and career.’

SOURCE: Daily Mail, by Chris Pleasance

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