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JUSSIE SMOLLETT BACK IN AT ‘EMPIRE’?

Jussie Smollett appears to be in Empire exec’s good graces. Page Six and TMZ snagged pics of Smollett leaving lunch at NYC’s Lafayette restaurant Wednesday, where he was dining with showrunner Brett Mahoney.

Mahoney has publicly stood by Smollett as he first reported a hate crime against himself on January 29th, then got accused of staging it, only to see those 16 charges of disorderly conduct and lying to the police get dropped. The entire case is now under investigation, with many questioning the handling of the investigation by police and prosecutors.

Earlier this week, Empire creator Lee Daniels also stood by Smollett and said they are considering bringing him back. Several castmembers, including Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard also wrote a letter to Fox execs asking them to allow him to stay.

Meanwhile, the last episode Smollett appeared in in Season 5 of the show showed a slight uptick in ratings, but still posted low figures for the series, a pattern of low ratings that began when the scandal first broke.

KIM FOXX IN HOT WATER

A judge meanwhile opined that Chicago State’s Attorney Kim Foxx acted hypocritically when urging charges be dropped against him. Cook County Judge Marc Martin compared her handling of another person accused of disorderly conduct: "I’d like to know why Ms. Clark is being treated differently than Jussie Smollett. It’s a disorderly conduct case. A lot less egregious than Mr. Smollett’s case. I have a problem with it."

Foxx has been criticized for her handling of the case, and three members of her team, including her chief ethics officer and spokeswoman have left in the wake of the scandal.