LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Representatives of 20th Century Fox Television said today they are evaluating their options regarding ``Empire'' actor Jussie Smollett after Smollett was arrested and charged in Chicago with allegedly staging a hate crime by supporters of President Donald Trump.
``We understand the seriousness of this matter and we respect the legal process. We are evaluating the situation and we are considering our options,'' the network's statement said.
Only 24 hours earlier, the network had signaled its support for the actor, tweeting: ``Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show.''
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson lit into Smollett at a news conference Thursday morning, accusing the actor of paying two men to stage the alleged attack in the early morning hours of Jan. 29.
``First, Smollett attempted to gain attention by sending a false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language,'' Johnson said. ``When that didn't work, Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago's reputation through he mud in the process. ... This stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary. So he concocted a story about being attacked.''
Police said Smollett, 36, surrendered Thursday on a felony charge of disorderly conduct alleging he made a false police report. If convicted, he faces up to three years in jail and could be ordered to pay for the cost of the investigation, which involved more than 20 detectives over three weeks.
Smollett was scheduled to appear for a bond hearing later in the day. He has not made a public comment since his arrest.
His lawyers had said in a previous statement: ``Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one, where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked. Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.''
The actor, who is African-American and openly gay, claimed that he was walking to his apartment in the 300 block of East North Water Street in Chicago when two men walked up, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, hit him and wrapped a noose around his neck. Smollett said they also yelled, ``This is MAGA country!'' referring to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan.
Chicago police initially investigated the alleged hate crime, but authorities said the nature of the probe changed as they discovered more evidence.