A Chicago grand jury has indicted Empire star Jussie Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report.
In January, Smollett reported that he was the victim of an attack that police initially investigated as a hate crime. Later, two brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, reportedly told police that they’d been paid $3,000 by Smollett for orchestrating the attack. Police claim that Smollett staged the attack and a threatening letter that arrived one week beforehand in order to “gain attention” because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.” Smollett vehemently denies any part in staging the attack.
Though he was originally indicted on just one count of disorderly conduct, on March 7 the grand jury returned 16 felony counts, one for each lie Smollett allegedly told police, according to ABC7 Chicago:
“The grand jury returned two separate sets of charges, one of each lie Smollett allegedly told. The first set are related to what Smollett told officers about the alleged attack, including that the attackers called him racial and homophobic slurs, struck him with their hands, put a noose around his neck, and poured some sort of chemical substance on him.
The second set of charges are related to the second interview Smollett had with police about the alleged attack later that day, saying the men attacked him from behind and he fell to the ground, at which point the men continued kicking him. Smollett also told police on this occasion that one of his attackers was white.”
In a statement, Smollett’s attorney Mark Geragos called the number of felony indictments “overkill”:
“The fact of an indictment is not unexpected. We knew that there is no way they would expose their evidence to a public airing and subject their witnesses to cross-examination.
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.”
Meanwhile, the Chicago Police Department has launched an internal investigation into leaks to the press during the Smollett investigation.