Jussie Smollett has been indicted by a Cook County grand jury on not one, but 16 counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report.
The Cook county State’s Attorney’s Office confirmed the indictment, which they said was returned by a grand jury on Thursday.
Smollett was originally charged with one felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office on Feb. 20.
Now the grand jury has returned 16 felony counts
The TV actor claimed he was the victim of a vicious hate crime in the Streeterville neighborhood on Jan. 29. He said two men physically attacked him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs, threw a chemical liquid on him and looped a rope around his neck.
The grand jury returned two separate sets of charges. 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 his 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.
The new set of charges each carry a possible sentence of probation to four years. Smollett already pleaded not guilty to the first disorderly conduct charge. He was taken into custody and posted $100,000 bond to be freed.
Experts believe it is likely he will strike a plea deal and potentially not spend time in prison.
Two days after the alleged attack, Chicago police released surveillance images of two people they said they considered persons of interest in the attack.
But the investigation turned on Smollett. He’s now accused of allegedly orchestrating the attack with the Osundairo brothers, who he knew. One brother was an extra on “Empire” and the other was Smollett’s personal trainer.
Smollett had also reported a threatening letter sent to him on the “Empire” set containing a white powder, a week before the alleged attack. The letter is currently in the FBI crime lab for analysis, sources said, and experts believe Smollett could face federal charges for allegedly sending the letter.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said the actor initially faked a letter using racist and homophobic language. When that didn’t get attention, Johnson said, Smollett paid two brothers $3,500 via personal check to stage the attack, because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.”
16 counts must mean the investigation turned up some pretty damning evidence.
Update: Jussie’s attorney, Mark Geragos, has released a 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.”
Geragos continues, “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.”