A Cook County grand jury in Chicago has returned a 16-count felony indictment against actor Jussie Smollett, 36, alleging he falsely reporting to police that he was the victim of a hate-crime assault.
Smollett was charged by the Cook County Illinois State Attorney’s Office on February 20, 2019 with a single felony count of disorderly conduct for the alleged false report he made with Chicago Police Department investigators January 29, 2019.
In his statement to detectives Smollett claimed he was assaulted by two masked men who hurled racist and homophobic slurs. He also claimed that his attackers poured what he believed was bleach over him and put a noose around his neck. Smollett, who is black and openly gay had portrayed a gay character in the hip-hop drama series ‘Empire’ on the Fox Television Network. A spokesperson for Fox confirmed that his character has been eliminated from the show.
Chicago’s Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson told reporters at the press conference after Smollett was initially arrested that the actor had paid two brothers to stage the assault on him in order to boost his profile and get a pay rise. Both men who were extras from the show, and one of them had also been contracted by the actor to train him as physical fitness coach for a music video.
After the actor’s arrest as it was disclosed that several statements made to media outlets prior to his arrest were inaccurate. Anthony Guglielmi, a spokesman for the police department, confirmed to ABC News that the probe was launched last month “during the interrogation of the brothers when information leaked out,” referring to the two Osundairo brothers who investigators said helped stage an attack.
“I will also add that there were several agencies briefed with information during that time and some of the information that went out was not factually accurate,” Guglielmi said Thursday evening.
“These types of investigations are fairly common so that we can determine if we have any integrity issues for future cases.”
Chicago Sun-Times journalist Andy Grimm reported that the indictment, which was made public on Friday, cites Smollett with disorderly conduct for each crime he said he had suffered, with separate counts related to statements he made the night of Jan. 29 to a police officer, and then for repeating the same account to a detective the same night. The charges all are Class 4 felonies, the lowest category of felony offense under Illinois law.
Smollett, who has been free on a $100,000 bond since his arrest on February 21, and his attorneys have denied the allegations against him. Mark Geragos, who represents Smollett, told entertainment news show Access Hollywood Friday “we will push back against them.”
“The way that this has played out, there was a motivation to do damage to him, and we’ll prove that,” Geragos said.
Reporting by ABC News, The Chicago Sun Times, Access Hollywood, and the staff of the Los Angeles Blade.