Breaking: Jussie Smollett Indicted on 16 Felony Counts
Jussie Smollett has been indicted on 16 felony counts in connection with a Jan. 29 incident that Chicago police have said was a fake attack.
Last month, Smollett, who starred in the show “Empire,” was charged with one felony count of filing a false report.
The gay, black actor had claimed that he was assaulted by two men who insulted him with racial and homophobic slurs before putting a noose around his neck.
Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, Nigerian brothers who at one time were considered suspects in the attack the Smollett, told police they had been paid $3,500 by the actor to stage the attack. They later apologized for their role in the incident.
The case stirred raging social media passions nationally. Smollett received the support of prominent Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who later distanced themselves from Smollett.
A Cook County grand jury has charged “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett in a 16-count indictment that alleges he concocted a racist and homophobic attack on himself. https://t.co/OSWVGLUKPs pic.twitter.com/redlJflx9f
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) March 8, 2019
WLS-TV reported that the grand jury handed up the charges on Thursday. It said there were two sets of indictments — one stemming from Smollett’s initial testimony about the attack and the second from a subsequent interview Smollett had with police. Each of the charges represents a specific act about which police accuse Smollett of lying.
The Cook County, Illinois, State’s Attorney’s Office confirmed the indictment.
The new charges are Class Four felonies, CBS reported. Each carries a potential sentence that could be as light as probation or as serious as four years in jail.
Smollett will be arraigned on Thursday.
Neither Smollett nor his attorneys had any immediate comment on the indictment.
“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,” Smollett’s attorneys had said last month, according to CNN.
The high-profile attention the case received will complicate efforts to resolve it, attorneys have said.
“This is publicly known that it took so many resources away from Chicago’s police department that, how are you going to justify it with giving him a slap on the wrist?” said Steven Goldman, a Chicago defense attorney, CNN reported.
“So I think his case is going to be a little more difficult than just (a) regular ordinary defendant’s case because its profile is so (high) right now,” he said.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson has said he felt Chicago was unfairly slammed because of the incident.
“The city of Chicago has its issues, the Chicago Police Department has its issues with racism and excessive force and all of that, and I’m acutely aware of that. But we didn’t earn this particular incident and I just refuse to let us have to take that shot if I have evidence to the contrary. So I just want people to understand that it’s a damaging thing to do to a city and to a police department, so it’s my responsibility to ensure that the record gets set straight,” he said.
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