CHICAGO – A Cook County grand jury has returned a 16-count indictment against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, according to court records.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office confirmed the indictment, which they said was returned by a grand jury on Thursday, reported ABC 7 Chicago.
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.
However, the grand jury apparently believes his actions are more egregious. As a result, they returned an indictment that included 16 felony counts for the crimes he is accused of committing.
The well-publicized hoax included the TV actor claiming to the victim of a vicious hate crime in the Streeterville neighborhood on Jan. 29. He claimed two men physically attacked him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs, threw a chemical liquid on him and looped a rope around his neck.
Yet the charade unraveled when the co-conspirators turned against him.
Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo’s attorney, Gloria Schmidt revealed, “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.”
The grand jury returned two separate sets of charges, one of each lie Smollett reportedly 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, according to ABC.
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 they 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.
The two sets of charges correspond to two sets of police officers Smollett allegedly lied to.
A charge of felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report carries a possible sentence of probation to three 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. Yet that remains to be seen.
Smollett’s attorney Mark Geragos released a statement addressing the indictment Friday night:
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.
Two days after the reported 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 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.
Moreover, 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. Consequently, 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.”