Jussie Smollett Indicted on 16 Counts for Alleged Hate Crime Hoax

Credit: The Chicago Police Department

A Chicago grand jury has indicted Empire actor Jussie Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct, for allegedly lying to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack, CBS2 Chicago reported Friday.

The indictment was handed down Thursday, prosecutors told the television station. It includes eight counts for what the actor told the officer who responded to the reported attack and eight for what he later told a detective. The charges carry a possible sentence ranging from probation to three years.

“Jussie Smollett knew that at the time … there was no reasonable ground for believing that such offenses had been committed,” read the indictment, which expands the case against the actor.

Smollett was initially charged last month with felony disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report, and was taken into custody. He pleaded not guilty to the disorderly conduct charge and was freed on $100,000 bond.

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The criminal case stems from an incident on Jan. 29, in which the actor told Chicago police officers he was assaulted by two masked men while walking home from a Subway sandwich shop around 2 a.m.

Smollett, who is black and openly gay, said he was beaten, doused with a chemical and had a rope placed around his neck, as the attackers yelled racist and homophobic slurs.

Cook County prosecutors said in a Feb. 21 news conference that they have Uber records, text messages, cell phone tower data from Smollett’s phone and a $3,500 personal check the actor allegedly wrote to pay brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo to stage the attack.

The brothers are cooperating with investigators and released a statement through their attorney saying they “regret” taking part in what police have described as a hoax.

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Smollett and his attorneys have denied the allegations against him.

“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked,” the actors Chicago-based attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson previously said in a statement.

Smollett, who plays Jamal Lyon on Empire, has been cut from the remaining episodes of the show’s current season.

The Empire star’s next court appearance is scheduled for March 14.