A Cook County grand jury indicted “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett on 16 felony charges Friday in connection with his reporting of an alleged attack he claimed to have suffered in Chicago‘s Streeterville neighborhood in late January.
Smollett was charged last month with one felony count of disorderly conduct in filing a false police report.
Police said in a press conference announcing his initial charge that Smollett sent a “false letter that relied on racial, homophobic and political language” to himself and staged a hate crime attack in Chicago because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.”
Authorities said new information “shifted” their investigation of the reported assault, in which Smollett told authorities he was physically attacked as he was returning home from an early morning stop at a Subway restaurant. He said two masked men shouted racial, anti-gay slurs and “This is MAGA country!” as they looped a rope around his neck and poured an “unknown chemical substance” on him before running away.
“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,” Smollett’s legal team said in a statement when he was initially charged. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”
His attorneys did not immediately respond to request for comment Friday.
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