After a couple weeks of relative quietness in the case involving “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, the Cook County grand jury has just indicted him on 16 felony counts.
Earlier this year, the openly gay actor claimed he was attacked in the middle of the night in Chicago by two white President Trump supporters who beat him, poured bleach on his head, and looped a rope around his neck while yelling anti-gay and racist slurs and shouting “This is MAGA country!”
His two assailants, who were actually Nigerian men who knew Smollett personally, were caught by police and told investigators that the actor had paid them to attack him as part of a hate crime hoax. After gathering a mountain of evidence, the Chicago police came to believe that, too.
This was all after Smollett had done emotional interviews claiming that he was the victim of racism and homophobia and gathered sympathy from across the nation.
Smollett now faces 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report, according to ABC 7. The charges were put in two categories relating to Smollett’s first interview with police after the alleged attack and his second interview later that night.
“Jussie Smollett knew that at the time … there was no reasonable ground for believing that such offenses had been committed,” the indictment said, according to CBS Chicago.
On those charges alone, Smollett could get anywhere from probation to up to four years in prison. But the actor faces possible federal charges, which could land him in far more trouble.
Just days before the alleged attack, Smollett went to authorities with a threatening letter he claimed was sent to him in an envelope full of white powder. The claim was serious enough for the FBI to get involved.
But if that letter is a phony, he could be in huge trouble for creating a fake terrorist attack. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson says his investigators believe the letter was created by Smollett, CWB Chicago reported.
Smollett has pleaded not guilty to at least one charge and has insisted he’s innocent. He has claimed that his Nigerian attackers assaulted him for their own reasons, not because he paid them to.
“How can an individual who has been embraced by the city of Chicago turn around and slap everyone in this city in the face by making these false claims?” Johnson said during a press conference after Smollett’s initial arrest.
“This publicity stunt was a scar Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve,” he continued. “To make things worse, the accusations within this phony attack received national attention for weeks. Celebrities, news commentators, and even presidential candidates weighed in on something that was choreographed by an actor.”