Jussie Smollett, the “Empire” star accused by Chicago police of staging a fake hate-crime attack, has been indicted by a Cook County grand jury on 16 counts in connection with the case.
The indictment, filed on Thursday alleges he repeatedly lied to Chicago police about being the victim of a homophobic and racist attack in January.
Smollett, who is scheduled to be arraigned on March 14, is charged with 16 counts of “false report of offense.”
The Class 4 felonies are described almost identically, except for the names of police officers, in that Smollett is accused of “knowingly” telling police that he was the victim of a “battery, a hate crime and an aggravated battery” and that he knew at the time “there was no reasonable ground for believing that such offenses had been committed.”
Late Friday, Smollett’s attorney Mark Geragos released a statement that the indictment was “not unexpected,” adding, “we knew that there is no way they would expose their evidence to a public airing and subject their witnesses to cross-examination.”
Geragos added: “What is unexpected however, is the prosecutorial overkill in charging 16 separate counts against Jussie. This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines in order to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the outrageous leaking of false information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie’s privacy in tampering with his medical records.
“Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption.”
Smollett told Chicago police that he was attacked in the middle of the night on a downtown street by masked men shouting homophobic and racist abuse. In February, after weeks of police investigation, he was charged with one Class 4 felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report about the alleged attack.
Now a county grand jury has deepened his legal woes by adding 15 more counts of disorderly conduct stemming from the alleged false police report.
Smollett has been out on bail after his initial arrest. He denies he lied to police or anyone else about what he says happened to him on Jan. 29.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx did not immediately issue a statement.
Chicago police spokesman Antony Guglielmi tweeted a comment from the CPD:
“As Supt. (Eddie) Johnson stated, allegations against Mr. Smollett are shameful & if proven, they are an affront to the people of Chicago who embraced him as a neighbor & respected him as a role model. We stand behind the work of detectives & refer any comment on indictment to prosecutors,” the tweet read.
As Supt Johnson stated, allegations against Mr. Smollett are shameful & if proven, they are an affront to the people of Chicago who embraced him as a neighbor & respected him as a role model. We stand behind the work of detectives & refer any comment on indictment to prosecutors https://t.co/7bFECluCSP— Anthony Guglielmi (@AJGuglielmi) March 8, 2019
Smollett was charged with one count on Feb. 20 by police, who alleged that he had paid two brothers who were his friends more than $3,000 to stage the attack as a ploy to raise his profile to get a raise in his salary on “Empire.”
Smollett surrendered to police and was arrested the next day, and was released later after posting $100,000 bail following a hearing.
After his arrest, “Empire” producers announced his character would be removed from the final two episodes of the Fox drama’s current season.
The Fox studio and network declined to comment on the latest news in the Smollett case.