The trouble continues for Jussie Smollett.
A few weeks after the Empire star was charged with filing a false police report, a federal grand jury has indicted him on 16 felony counts, according to TMZ and multiple Chicago news stations, related to the racial and homophobic attack that police say Smollett staged against himself.
According to the indictment, all counts were for “false report of offense,” and each is for a lie he told to authorities on two separate occasions.
Smollett’s lawyer Mark Geragos says his client maintains his innocence, calling these indictments “redundant and vindictive” in the following statement: “The fact of an indictment was 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.”
On Jan. 29, the 36-year-old actor, who is black and gay, alleges that he was violently attacked by two men, but on Feb. 16, police revealed that new evidence had “shifted the trajectory of the investigation.” Days later, Smollett was officially charged, with police believing he orchestrated the incident and paid the men, whom he’s connected to through Empire.
Fox and the executive producers behind Empire subsequently decided to remove the actor from the final two episodes of the current fifth season. Smollett is currently out on bail.
“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,” Smollett’s lawyers say in their latest statement. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
For the full timeline of events, read everything we know about the case.
- Chicago police chief says there is ‘a lot more evidence’ against Jussie Smollett
- Jussie Smollett maintains innocence, apologizes to Empire cast and crew
- Losing an heir? What Jussie Smollett’s possible exit could mean for Empire
- Police say Jussie Smollett staged attack because he was dissatisfied with Empire salary