‘Outrageous’: Judge unleashes on TV star
EMPIRE actor Jussie Smollett's bond has been set at $100,000 ($A141,220) in his first court appearance for disorderly conduct, after it was alleged he filed a false police report last month.
The charge relates to Smollett telling uthorities he was attacked in downtown Chicago by two men who hurled racist and anti-gay slurs and looped a ropearound his neck.
The judge also stripped the star of his passport and he must post $10,000 ($A14,120) to be released.
Smollett's lawyers asked for him to be freed on his own recognisance, but the judge said that was inappropriate and that he was particularly bothered by the allegations involving the rope placed around Smollett's neck.
"As you stand before me we presume you're innocent but the state read me a proper that is outrageous. If true, the noose conjures up [the] greatest evil in this country," the judge told Smollett, according to Fox News.
Smollett denied all charges against him while his lawyer argued in court the actor has a "history of giving to charity and philanthropy."
Earlier, Chicago's police superintendent alleged the actor "took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career" in making a false police report.
Smollett also sent a racist and homophobic threatening letter to the Fox studio lot where he works in Chicago before the attack, Superintendent Eddie Johnson claimed.
He said Smollett was dissatisfied with his salary, which was reported to be around $US100,000 ($A140,000) an episode of the hit show. He was said to have earned $US1.8 million ($A2.5 million) for the current season of Empire, on which he has played Jamal Lyon since 2015.
The alleged motive "p****d everybody off", Superintendent Johnson said, adding that Smollett's repeated "lies" were "shameful" and "despicable".
Smollett turned himself in and was arrested early on Thursday local time to face the accusations.
US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to condemn the star, saying the actor had "insulted" his followers with "racist and dangerous comments".
Celebrities such as 50 Cent, Tyler Perry and Andy Cohen weighed in, with the TV host calling the story "pathetic".
British TV host Piers Morgan called the actor a "snivelling little liar".
Community star Yvette Nicole Brown, who initially shamed people for not believing Smollett, received some flack on Twitter, but stood by her original sentiments.
"I won't delete it. It's how I felt" she wrote on Twitter. "I don't hide from how I feel or what I stand for, even as situations change. I'm saddened by this entire situation."
The whispers about Smollett's story started with reports that he had not fully co-operated with police after telling authorities he was attacked.
Then detectives in a city bristling with surveillance cameras could not find video of the beating.
Later, two brothers were taken into custody for questioning but were released after two days, with police saying they were no longer suspects.
Following three weeks of mounting suspicions, Smollett was charged with felony disorder conduct, a charge that could bring up to three years in prison and force the actor, who is black and gay, to pay for the cost of the investigation into his report.
In less than a month, the 36-year-old changed from being the seemingly sympathetic victim of a hate crime to being accused of fabricating the entire thing.
The felony charge emerged on the same day detectives and the two brothers testified before a grand jury. Smollett's lawyers met with prosecutors and police, but it was unknown what they discussed or whether Smollett attended the meeting.
Investigators have not said what the brothers told detectives or what evidence detectives collected. But it became increasingly clear that serious questions had arisen about Smollett's account - something police signalled Friday when they announced a "significant shift in the trajectory" of the probe after the brothers were freed.
Police said one of the men had worked on Empire and Smollett's lawyers said one of the men is the actor's personal trainer, whom he hired to help get him physically ready for a music video. The actor released his debut album, Sum of My Music, last year.
In a statement, lawyers Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson said 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."
Smollett, who plays a gay character on Empire, said he was attacked on January 29 as he was walking home from a Subway sandwich shop.
He said the masked men beat him, made derogatory comments and yelled "This is MAGA country" - an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again" - before fleeing.
On Wednesday, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television issued a statement saying Smollett "continues to be a consummate professional on set" and that his character is not being written off the show.
The studio's statement followed reports that Smollett's role was being slashed amid the police investigation.
The series is shot in Chicago and follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry.
Smollett has been active in LBGTQ issues, and initial reports of the assault drew outrage and support for him on social media, including from Senator Kamala Harris of California and TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
Referring to a published account of the attack, Mr Trump told reporters at the White House that "it doesn't get worse, as far as I'm concerned."
But several hours after Smollett was declared a suspect and the charges announced, there was little reaction from celebrities online.
Former Cook County prosecutor Andrew Weisberg said judges rarely throw defendants in prison for making false reports, opting instead to place them on probation, particularly if they have no prior criminal record.
Smollett has a record - one that concerns giving false information to police when he was pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence. According to records, he was also charged with false impersonation and driving without a license. He later pleaded no contest to a reduced charge and took an alcohol education and treatment program.
Another prospective problem is the bill someone might receive after falsely reporting a crime that prompted a nearly monthlong investigation, including the collection and review of hundreds of hours of surveillance video. The size of the tab is anyone's guess, but given how much time the police have invested, the cost could be huge.
Weisberg recently represented a client who was charged with making a false report after surveillance video discredited her account of being robbed by three men at O'Hare Airport.
For an investigation that took a single day, his client had to split restitution of $US8400 ($A11,700), Mr Weisberg said. In Smollett's case, "I can imagine that this would be easily into the hundreds of thousands of dollars."