According to Deadline, Empire actor Jussie Smollett appeared in court in Chicago after charges were made against him. Almost a month and a half ago, Smollett claimed he was assaulted in a hate crime due to his sexual orientation. However, he was arrested and charged with faking the assault on February 21st. His attorney, Tina Glandian, gave the “not guilty” plea concerning his 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct.
Despite his claim of innocence, the evidence against him has been seemingly insurmountable. Chicago prosecutors found text messages between the Osundairo brothers and Smollett that detailed the plan of attack. Jussie is looking at a possibility of a $25,000 fine on each count as well as over three years in jail. While he is still being closely monitored, Smollett has been allowed a slight reprieve by Judge Watkins, now allowed to travel between LA and NYC in order for legal consultations.
Smollett is currently out on a bail of $100,000 and due to appear back in court April 17th. He plays Jamal Lyon, an openly gay character on Empire, but his role has since been on the rocks after the incident. According to showrunner Brett Mahoney, “It’s a matter of trusting the process and allowing the legal process to play out and see where it goes from there. And it’s too early to think about what we would have to do if we didn’t have Jussie. We have such a strong ensemble and we have so many stories to tell for all of these fascinating characters that it’s bigger than one character, but it’s too early to think about the show without him.” Smollett was cut out of the last two episodes, however. Concerning this decision, Mahoney stated that it was important to allow the cast and crew some time away from the drama, as well as to allow “Jussie the time to really deal with what he’s been confronted with and allow him the time to focus and prepare his case.” From this, it seems the fate of Jamal Lyon rests on the decision of the court case.