Jussie Smollett has been indicted by a Chicago grand jury on 16 felony counts for allegedly lying to police about being the victim of a hate crime.
The grand jury returned two separate sets of charges. The first set is related to what Smollett told police officers about the alleged attack, and the second set is related to the second interview Smollett had with police about the incident.
Each set of charges carries a sentence ranging from probation up to four years in prison. According to Chicago’s ABC 7, it is believed he will most likely strike a plea deal and not spend time in prison.
The Empire actor became the subject of a national dialogue after he reported a brutal attack on the street to the Chicago Police Department back in January.
Since initial reports emerged, Chicago PD now believes Smollett filed a fake police report and paid two men $3,500 to orchestrate the assault. On February 22, police confirmed he was had been apprehended and was in custody. (He was reportedly released later that day on $100,000 bail.)
Smollett, 36, who plays gay performer Jamal Lyon on the popular Fox drama, originally reported that he was attacked in Chicago by two masked assailants, who used racist and homophobic slurs. These attackers also allegedly tied rope around the out actor’s neck and poured bleach on him.
Brothers Olabinjo “Ola” and Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo, initially questioned by police as suspects, “shifted the trajectory of the investigation” by providing evidence that they had been paid off by Smollett to orchestrate the assault.
Despite Chicago PD’s claims that he may have organized the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on Empire, Smollett and his lawyers maintain his innocence. (The actor did, however, issue an apology to his colleagues on the set of Empire, according to CNN. He was later cut from the show.) His attorneys released a statement denouncing Chicago PD for “an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system”:
The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election. Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.
Smollett is due back in court on March 14.