Jussie Smollett has been indicted on 16 counts of filing a false police report, stemming from his alleged staging of a hate attack.
The “Empire” actor is facing the charges after it was alleged he filed a false police report when he claimed to be the victim of a homophobic and racist hate attack on January 29, 2019.
According to Variety, a Cook County grand jury handed Jussie the indictment on Friday, March 8, after the actor was previously charged with a single count for the alleged false filing, which carries the possibility of up to three years in prison.Of the 16 new counts, eight charges involve false statements given to Officer Muhammed Baig, while the other eight are for a more detailed account given to Detective Kim Murray.
Smollett had told police he was assaulted at 2 a.m. by two men who shouted homophobic and racist slurs at him and put a noose around his neck. In the more detailed account, he claimed that he fought back and that one of the attackers was White.
The indictment read: “Jussie Smollett knew that at the time of this transmission there was no reasonable ground for believing that such an offense had been committed.”
And although he faces several charges, former Cook County prosecutor Andrew Weisberg says the number of counts won’t have an effect on Smollett’s sentence, should he be convicted.
Weisberg told Variety magazine that the counts will run concurrently, so the sentencing range would still be one to three years in prison.
He added: “I would still expect a period of probation, a psychological evaluation and restitution to cover costs of the investigation. I would still be surprised if he goes to prison.”
Smollett has denied the allegations against him, and his attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson recently said a “thorough investigation” into the claims is still ongoing.
They said: “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.
“Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”