Jussie Smollett ‘fiercely’ maintains his innocence

Empire actor Jussie Smollett has maintained his innocence after Chicago Police Department charged him with making a false report, in his first statement since his arrest on Thursday morning (February 21).

In a statement release on Thursday night, Smollett, who alleged that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago on January 29, said he felt “betrayed” by authorities.

“Mr. Smollet 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,” read a statement sent on behalf of Smollett, who has been released on $100,000 bail, to Deadline on Thursday night.

“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” the statement added.

“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.”

Jussie Smollett says he has been “betrayed” by the system

Smollett was arrested on Thursday, with Chicago Police Department charging him with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report.

He faces up to three years in prison and $25,000 in fines if found guilty of arranging what Police Chief Eddie T. Johnson has called a “hoax,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Jussie Smollett speaks at the Children's Defense Fund California's 28th Annual Beat The Odds Awards at Skirball Cultural Center on December 6, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.

Lawyers for Jussie Smollett have promised to “mount an aggressive defence.” (Gabriel Olsen/Getty)

At a press briefing on Thursday, Johnson said: “This announcement today recognises that Empire actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”

The police chief, who is African-American, called Smollett’s behaviour “shameful,” adding: “I’m left hanging my head and asking, why?

“Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?”

Police Chief Eddie T. Johnson criticises Jussie Smollett

He said the Empire actor first attempted to drum up attention from the public by sending a fake racist letter to his place of work.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that the FBI was investigating hate mail sent to Smollett in the days leading up to his alleged attack.

The 36-year-old actor, who came out as gay on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2015, said he was attacked by two individuals at approximately 2am in E. North Lower Water Street on January 29.

Smollett alleged that the two men shouted the pro-Trump slogan “MAGA,” meaning “Make America Great Again,” at him during the attack.

He claimed they also shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him, including “n****r” and “faggot.”

Police arrested Nigerian brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo in relation to the alleged assault last week, but the pair were released without charges, according to CBS Chicago.

Police officers have since said that they have a cheque paid to brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, one of which worked as an extra on Empire, in connection with the assault.

Video footage obtained by CBS Chicago appears to show the two brothers buying a ski mask, red hat, and other items the day before the alleged assault on Smollett.

Smollett’s lawyers Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson released a statement saying they plan to “mount an aggressive defence” against the charges, reports the BBC and CBS reporter Charlie De Mar.