Actor Jussie Smollett's character won't appear in the final two episodes of "Empire" this season.
In a statement obtained by "Extra" on Friday, the executive producers said, “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."
“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,” the statement continued.
Sources told TMZ that cast members were "f**king furious" about Smollett’s scandal and were concerned that his presence would damage the show’s reputation.
The decision came less than a day after Smollett was released from jail and returned to the set to film some scenes. The site reported that Smollett addressed the cast and crew, maintaining his innocence, saying, “I’m sorry I’ve put you all through this and not answered any calls. I wanted to say I’m sorry and, you know me, I would never do this to any of you, you are my family. I swear to God, I did not do this.”
Smollett's legal team has released a new statement, saying, "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."
"Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” the statement continued. “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.”
Earlier on Thursday, prosecutors released shocking details on what led to Smollett’s arrest.
During a news conference, prosecutor Risa Lanier detailed Smollett’s alleged plan. Lanier revealed that Smollett was “close friends” with one of the men, Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo, who was “a source of designer drugs” for the “Empire” actor.
Since spring of 2018, Smollett “requested” Molly, also known as MDMA, from Osundairo on “several occasions.”
Smollett allegedly texted Abel days before the attack, “Might need your help on the low. You around to meet up and talk face to face?”
Prosecutors say they met up at Cinespace Studios and Smollett drove Abel home. During a car ride, Smollett expressed that he wanted to stage an attack, involving Abel. He also suggested that Abel’s brother Ola be part of the attack. The ride from Cinespace to the Osundairo’s residence was corroborated by CPD POD videos and cellular phone towers.
After the brothers agreed to be part of his plan, he gave them a $100 bill to purchase “rope, gasoline, ski masks, gloves and red baseball caps.” The purchases were corroborated by surveillance footage and a receipt
On Sunday, January 27, Smollett met up with the brothers and showed them “where he wanted the stage attack to take place” — outside his apartment building. During their meeting, it was decided that “bleach was going to be used rather than gasoline.” He also “provided them with a $3,500 personal check made payable to Abel.”
The following day, the brothers purchased clothing at a local beauty supply store and rope at a hardware store with the money from Smollett. The purchases were corroborated by surveillance footage and a receipt. Abel deposited the check on the same day.
Though the attack was planned for 10 p.m. Chicago time, it was pushed back due to Smollett’s delayed flight from NYC. After his plane landed at 12:30 a.m., phone records reveal a call between Smollett and Abel at 12:49 a.m. During the three-minute call, “Smollett told Abel the attack would take place at exactly 2:00 a.m. at the pre-set location.”
The staged attack “lasted 45 seconds,” but was not captured by the cameras since “it was just outside the view of the desired nearby camera.”
After the staged attack, the brothers ran from the location and took a taxi from the Hyatt Regency Hotel across the Chicago River. They arrived near their apartment at 2:27 a.m. a few minutes later, and Smollett’s manager called the police “to report the incident.”
At around 2:42 a.m., the police arrived at Smollett’s apartment, observing that he still had “a rope draped around his neck.” He would claim that “the offenders struck him while yelling racial slurs” and “placed a rope around his neck, poured a liquid chemical on him, and told him "this is MAGA country." He also told the police that the area around the attackers' eyes “was white-skinned.”
Less than 24 hours after the reported attack, Smollett placed a five-second call to Abel, who called back two minutes later. The following day, Smollett called Abel, who was in Istanbul. The call was nearly nine minutes long.
After two weeks of investigating, police were able to identify the Osundairo brothers as the alleged attackers. When they returned to Chicago from Nigeria, they were detained by U.S. Customs. After executing a search warrant, the police found out that Abel and Ola were linked to"Empire."
Once the brothers consulted with their legal representation, they agreed to cooperate in the investigation, which “shifted from a Hate Crime to Disorderly Conduct investigation.”
FOX also released a statement, saying, “We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options."