US actor Jussie Smollett faces 16 charges over ‘staged hate attack’
The Empire star told police in late January that he was physically attacked by two men in downtown Chicago.
A grand jury in the US has indicted Empire actor Jussie Smollett on 16 charges related to making a false report that he was attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs.
The Chicago grand jury indictment says he made a false report about an offence.
Smollett was charged on February 20 with one count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report.
Smollett told police in late January that he was physically attacked by two men in downtown Chicago while out getting food from a Subway restaurant at 2am.
The actor said the men shouted at him, wrapped a rope around his neck and poured an “unknown substance” on him.
Police said Smollett, who is black and gay, told detectives the attackers also yelled he was in “MAGA country,” an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan that some Trump critics have decried as racist and discriminatory.
After an investigation, Chicago police said Smollett recruited two men to stage the attack because he was upset with his pay on the Fox show.
Smollett has denied playing a role in the attack.
A lawyer for the actor called the grand jury indictment “vindictive” and “prosecutorial overkill”.
In a statement, Mark Geragos said: “(The indictment) is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines in order to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the outrageous leaking of information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie’s privacy.”