On March 8, a grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts related to an alleged attack he suffered in January. Smollett reportedly told police that two men approached him and began hurling racist and homophobic slurs at him, then placed a noose around his neck and doused him with a chemical substance, believed to be bleach. Smollett also told police that the assailants “yelled pro-‘Make America Great Again’ [MAGA] comments” during the attack.
Later, though, Smollett’s account came into question after police talked to two suspects — brothers, one of whom worked on a music video of Smollett’s — who were released without being charged. Smollett pleaded not guilty on March 14, and he was scheduled to appear in court on April 17. Meanwhile, Empire removed Jamal from the final two episodes of the current season, and the show’s Powers That Be considered removing the character from the series altogether.
Henson was vocal about her support for Smollett immediately following the incident in Chicago.
After the charges were dropped Tuesday, she cited “his track record” as the reason her faith in him hadn’t wavered throughout his legal woes. “I’m not going to jump on clickbait just because someone says something derogatory about a person I know and love,” she said, adding, “I know the type of activism this young man does in his community, I know that he’s a giver — he’s not an attention-seeker.”
Henson also said she had not spoken to Smollett since the charges had been dropped, and she was unaware about whether or not he would return to Empire.