Jussie Smollett’s legal troubles took a turn for the worse Thursday after a Cook County grand jury indicted him on 16 felony counts after he allegedly lied to police about being a victim of a hate crime attack.
In late January, the 36-year-old Empire actor reported that he was viciously attacked by two men in a Chicago neighborhood while the men yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him. After a deep investigation into the assault, police believe Smollett to be a suspect in staging his own attack and accuse him of paying the two men to orchestrate the attack against him.
Smollett was later arrested and charged with one count of felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. However, the grand jury returned two sets of charges against Smollett for the two separate interviews he did in which he lied to police. In the first interview he did with police, he said the attackers struck him with their hands, put a noose around his neck, called him racial and homophobic slurs and poured a chemical substance on him. In the second interview he said he was attacked from behind and kicked by the men and that one of the men was white.
Smollett’s lawyer Mark Geragos released a statement Friday night regarding the 16 separate counts against Smollett, calling them “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.”
The charges against Smollett carry a possible sentence of probation to three years in prison if convicted, but it is believed that he will likely strike a plea deal and will not spend time in prison.
Smollett maintains his innocence and was released from jail last month after he posted $100,00 bail. His lawyers are due back in court next week.