On Friday, Jussie Smollett was indicted by a grand jury on 16 felony counts. Just last month, the Empire star was charged with allegedly filing a false report to the Chicago police. He originally reported to the police that he was assaulted by two men while walking down the street. The actor is now accused of staging the incident himself and lying to the police about what actually happened, NBC News reports.
Through his lawyers, Smollett has denied the allegations that he has orchestrated the attack. Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct in February for allegedly filing a false report. He has not entered a plea deal for the recent charges, but he has pleaded not guilty to the disorderly conduct charge, and was released on $100,000 bail.
Smollett had originally told the police that, when he was walking home on the morning of January 29, two men assaulted him, wrapped a rope around his neck, and screamed racist and homophobic slurs at him. He was admitted to the hospital and later questioned by the police. Surveillance images of two people of interest in the investigation were released, and two Nigerian brothers were arrested two weeks later.
— The Root (@TheRoot) March 8, 2019
The police released the two brothers without charges, stating that “the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation.” It was revealed by Smollett’s lawyer that one of the men arrested was the actor’s personal trainer.
A couple days later, Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. It was confirmed in a press conference on February 21 that Smollett organized the attack, and he turned himself in the following day.
“This announcement today recognizes that ‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said per NBC Chicago. “I’m left handing my head and asking why.”
Smollett’s lawyer Mark Geragos said the actor plans to fight the charges.
“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,” Geragos said to BuzzFeed News. “Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption.”
According to ABC 7, experts think that Smollett will take a plea deal and possibly will not serve any prison time.