A Chicago grand jury has returned 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct against Empire actor Jussie Smollett.
Smollett has been specifically accused of making “false report of offense,” according to CBS Chicago. He will be arraigned on March 14.
The sixteen charges in the indictment correspond with statements Smollett made to police that prosecutors allege were false, including describing the acts committed during the attack such as the yelled slurs and pouring of bleach.
“Jussie Smollett knew that at the time…there was no reasonable ground for believing that such offenses had been committed,” the indictment reads.
Smollett was charged last month with disorderly conduct, with police accusing him of falsifying a report that he was attacked in the early hours of Jan. 29 in Chicago.
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, claimed he was attacked in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood by two masked men, one of whom was wearing a red hat, during the early morning hours of Jan. 29 while talking on the phone with his manager.
Smollett said the men shouted racist and homophobic slurs at him, beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical believed to be bleach on him. Smollett’s manager, Brandon Moore, claimed that he heard the attackers calling Smollett “Empire faggot [racial expletive]” and shouting “This is MAGA country!”
At the time of his arrest, Chicago police accused Smollett of staging the attack because he was unhappy with his Empire salary.
Smollett has since been suspended from the Fox drama, and won’t appear in the final two episodes of season five.
The actor’s legal team has yet to make a statement on the indictment against him, but in February issued a statement declaring his innocence and claiming Chicago police engaged in “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,” the statement reads. “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.”
Earlier this month, Good Morning America host Robin Roberts called her interview with Smollett after he reported the attack a “no-win situation.”
Roberts interviewed Smollett on February 14, one week before the actor was formally charged with disorderly conduct and accused of staging the attack.
Discussing whether she should have been more aggressive in her questioning, Roberts said: “I’m a black gay woman, he’s a black gay man. He’s saying that there’s a hate crime, so if I’m too hard, then my LGBT community is going to say, ‘You don’t believe a brother.’ If I’m too light on him, it’s like, ‘Oh, because you are in the community, you’re giving him a pass.’”
Roberts added that it was “a no-win situation for me.”
“I pride myself in being fair,” she continued. “I know how much work went into being balanced about what had happened and to challenge him on certain things.”
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