Jussie Smollett has been spotted in public for the first time since he was arrested for filing a false police report and disorderly conduct connected to accusations that he and two other men staged a hate crime in January. The Blast reports that the 36-year-old actor was spotted out with his brother as they headed into a Chicago restaurant. Smollett was released on bail, but will be back in court on March 14.
According to The Blast, the restaurant is a short distance from Smollett’s apartment, but he’s staying in a hotel that’s even closer, presumably, so that he can limit the likelihood of being seen.
Jussie Smollett has maintained that he is innocent of the charges. According to a report from CNN, on the day that he was arrested, he went to the set of Empire to apologize for the negative press the story had garnered and to re-assert that his account of the alleged attack was truthful.
But Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who gave an impassioned speech during a press conference about the case, has subsequently said that there’s more evidence that has not been released. He made this declaration during an interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. As The Blast notes, this is the same outlet to which Smollett gave his first and only interview about the incident. That interview happened before his arrest and before the men who allegedly helped Smollett were questioned by police.
“There’s a lot more evidence that hasn’t been presented yet that does not support the version that he gave,” Johnson said.
Despite the charges, The Blast notes that Smollett still has the support of his family. His sister, actress Jurnee Smollett, has done so publicly, decrying his purported mistreatment by the media and describing him as a victim that has been criminalized.
The arrest and ongoing case have already had a negative effect on Smollett’s professional life. His character on Empire, Jamal Lyon, has been written out of the last two episodes of the show’s season. A statement from the show’s executive producers has described the situation as “emotional.”
“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us,” the statement read. “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.”