CHICAGO — A Cook County grand jury has returned a 16-count indictment against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett.
Prosecutors on Feb. 20 charged Smollett with a single count of disorderly conduct for filing a false report claiming two men attacked him downtown Jan. 29. Smollett, who is black and gay, said the men shouted racist and homophobic slurs while punching him, kicking him and putting a noose around his neck.
Prosecutors said Smollett staged the attack. Police alleged the actor was unhappy with his salary and wanted to promote his career.
Now, a grand jury has indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false report. The indictment was filed Thursday and made public Friday.
Smollett, 36, has maintained his innocence. He is currently free on bail after being arrested last month.
His attorney, Mark Geragos, released a statement Friday: "The fact of an indictment is not unexpected. ... What is unexpected however, is the prosecutorial overkill in charging 16 separate counts against Jussie. This redundant and vindictive 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 false information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie's privacy in tampering with his medical records."
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