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Empire actor Jussie Smollett freed on bail after ‘staging racist attack over salary’

By Sky News

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Jussie Smollett pictured behind a bodyguard as he leaves court

(SKY NEWS) — Empire actor Jussie Smollett has been released on bail after being accused by police of staging his own racist and homophobic attack.

Authorities claim he faked the assault because he was dissatisfied with his salary.

He appeared in a Chicago court where a judge set bail at $100,000 (£77,000).

Smollett was then surrounded by a throng of reporters and camera crews as he left the hearing after being released.

The 36-year-old, who came out as gay in 2015, is charged with disorderly conduct and filing a false police report following an apparent beating in the city last month.

Smollett also sent a racist and homophobic threatening letter to the Fox studio where he works in Chicago before the alleged attack, Superintendent Eddie Johnson said.

The US actor “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” said Mr Johnson, adding Smollett paid $3,500 (£2,600) to two brothers to stage the supposed hate crime.

He continued: “This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with this salary. He concocted a story about being attacked. We gave him the benefit of the doubt.”

Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon in the US TV drama Empire, claimed he was targeted by two masked men, apparently Trump supporters, as he walked home from a sandwich shop.

Smollett told police the attackers shouted racist and homophobic slurs, put a noose around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.

But following three weeks of mounting suspicions, he was charged on Wednesday and handed himself in on Thursday.

Donald Trump tweeted Smollett, saying: “What about MAGA [Make America Great Again] and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?”

If convicted, the actor could face three years in prison and be forced to pay for the investigation into the alleged beating on 29 January.

Two brothers, who are bodybuilders and aspiring actors, have claimed they were paid to stage the attack on Smollett.

Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, who were earlier deemed suspects, have now testified before a grand jury.

One of the men had appeared in Empire, police said, and one of them was Smollett’s personal trainer, who had helped the actor as he prepared to appear in a music video.

Detectives were unable to find CCTV footage of the alleged attack.

Supt Johnson has called on Smollett to apologise to the people of Chicago.

He said: “How can an individual who has been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?”

In court, one of Smollett’s lawyers told the judge that the actor maintains “these are outrageous allegations” and denies they are true.

During a tearful appearance on Good Morning America last week, the actor claimed he had been “forever changed” by the incident.

He also said he was angry that some people questioned his story, and suggested the disbelief might come from racial bias.

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