A grand jury in Chicago has returned a 16-count felony indictment against former Empire actor Jussie Smollett, on filing a false police report when he claimed he was the victim of a hate-crime assault by Trump supporters, local media reported on Friday, citing court documents.
Smollett was previously charged in a criminal complaint with felony disorderly conduct, involving lying to police officers in relation to a supposed racist and homophobic attack in downtown Chicago on 29 January.
“Jussie Smollett knew that at the time … there was no reasonable ground for believing that such offenses had been committed,” according to the indictment, CBS Chicago said in a report on Friday afternoon.
Smollet had reported being attacked while walking home in the early hours. He told police two masked men – one of them wearing a red Make America Great Again hat – shouted racist and homophobic slurs as they beat him, said “this is MAGA country”, put a noose around his neck, and doused him with a chemical.
Police found out in reality, Smollett had paid those two men, Ola and Abel Osundairo, $3,500 to stage the attack.
Police said after Smollett was arrested last month that they believed he staged the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on Empire and was trying to draw attention to his plight.
Lawyers for Jussie Smollett told NBC that they plan to fight the charges.
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