Just over a month ago news broke that Empire star Jussie Smollett had required hospital treatment following a serious assault in Chicago.
In a bizarre turn of events, TVLine.com reports that Smollett has been indicted on 16 felony counts in relation to the incident. Eight of the indictments are from the original false report, and eight from a later discussion with a detective.
The initial reports were that two men had approached Smollett making racist and homophobic remarks, then physically assaulted him, put a noose round his neck and poured something – thought to be bleach – over him. Smollett also later told the police that the men had “yelled pro-MAGA (Make America Great Again) slogans” during the assault.
It later emerged that one of the suspects had been Smollett’s personal trainer during work on a music video. Both suspects were released without charge after police questioning.
Smollett was arrested on February 21, and charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. The indictments by the Cook County Grand Jury were made on Thursday and made public Friday, March 8.
The police press conference that followed the arrest in February stated that Smollett had staged the attack in an attempt to leverage a larger salary on Empire.
In fact his character, Jamal, has been written out of the latest episodes, the last of the season, following the off-screen drama, while series producers Fox are considering their options, including whether to recast the character.
Jussie Smollett’s legal council stated that although an indictment was not surprising, they were surprised that a total of 16 indictments had been brought against the star.
Attorney Mark Geragos, representing Smollett, said in a statement that the number of indictments were “redundant and vindictive” and were “…a desperate attempt to make headlines… to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the outrageous leaking of false information by the Chicago Police Department.”
Smollett and his legal team continue to be adamant that Smollett is innocent of the charges in the indictments and that he had nothing to do with the attack.