Jussie Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts by a grand jury for filing a false police report, Us Weekly can confirm.
According to court documents, the Cook County grand jury returned 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct on Thursday, March 7. The first set of charges is related to the Empire star’s initial interview with police officers about his alleged attack, which took place on January 29. The second set of charges is based on his second interview with police later that day.
“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,” Smollett’s lawyer said in a statement to Us on Friday, March 8. “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.”
His attorney added: “Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption.”
Smollett told officers that he was attacked by two men yelling homophobic and racist slurs before placing a rope around his neck. He also alleged that he received a threatening letter days before the incident, which police have since claimed that he wrote to himself.
The actor was arrested on February 21 after police claimed he paid two men, brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, to stage the attack to help him get a raise for his role on the Fox drama. He was released later that day after posting 10 percent of his $100,000 bail.
“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system. The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election,” his legal team said in a statement to Us at the time. “Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”
The Osundairo brothers, meanwhile, issued a statement on February 28, apologizing for allegedly helping Smollett stage the incident: “My clients have tremendous regret over their involvement in this situation, and they understand how it has impacted people across the nation, particularly minority communities and especially those who have been victims of hate crimes themselves.”