Smollett to Empire castmates: No really, I'm totally innocent

Credit Jussie Smollett with this much — he really knows how to read lines written for him. The man accused of staging a hate-crime hoax went from posting bail directly to the studio to shoot scenes for Empire. His castmates expected an explanation, but CNN reports that all they got was a soliloquy penned by Mark Geragos et al:

When Jussie Smollett called the cast and crew of the television show “Empire” together Thursday night, they were expecting the actor to come clean about what really happened, a person at the meeting told CNN.

Smollett did apologize to his coworkers for any embarrassment they might have felt since the story began.

But then, to the shock and dismay of the person who attended the meeting, Smollett stuck to his story of innocence. For the most part, the source said, he paraphrased what was in the statement that his attorney put out that afternoon, blaming the legal system and the media for his woes.

Ah yes, the defense team statement. That did indeed sound mighty combative for a defense team whose client might be better advised looking for a deal before this escalates much further. His attorneys declared Smollett a “young man of impeccable character and integrity,” and ripped law enforcement for a “spectacle” yesterday:

“A young man of impeccable character and integrity”? Smollett got convicted in 2007 of not only driving under the influence, but also trying to avoid getting a record by falsely identifying himself. This is a young man who has a track record of telling police falsehoods already. Everyone makes mistakes, of course, but that line is going to get some laughs in court if Smollett’s attorneys trot that one out.

Turnabout is fair play, perhaps. Law enforcement spent an hour publicly ripping Smollett for the “spectacle” that he staged for two weeks over an allegedly fake hate crime. In that sense, the attorney’s statement is an improvement — assuming that Smollett plans to keep his mouth shut from now on. His attorneys might be following Smollett’s wishes to stay on offense publicly, but they have to be warning Smollett about any further public statements on his own.

Will Smollett take that advice? It sounds as though he’s ready to double down on his claim, which is what an innocent man would do, of course. Prosecutors have to prove this in court, although the police presentation at the bond hearing certainly looks impressive. Click the photos to read through the entire proffer, and note that police have a witness that will testify that she heard nothing amiss when Smollett and his two friends congregated at the time of the alleged attack:

The decision to attack law enforcement may have its own costs. A class-4 felony might not bring any prison time if the person convicted demonstrates some remorse and admits to his crime. If Smollett fights this and loses, prosecutors will want him to spend time behind bars; the police certainly will at this point. It also might incentivize federal prosecutors to press forward on charges of sending a threat and a hoax via the US mail if they can tie the letter back to Smollett, as the police alleged yesterday.

A tearful admission along with some excuse might have made all this go away quietly. If Smollett wants to go to war, he will likely live to regret it.