Empire actor, Jussie Smollett has been indicted on 16 felony counts of falsely reporting to police that he was assaulted by two masked men shouting racist and homophobic slurs.
The 36-year-old actor, who is openly gay, was arrested and charged last month in a single-count criminal complaint, on accusation that he falsely reported he was attacked on January 29 by two strangers who hurled racial and homophobic slurs, beat him, threw an unidentified liquid chemical on him and looped a rope tied like a noose around his neck.
The new indictment in the case contains 16 similar counts – eight related to his interview with one police officer on the day of the purported attack and eight more stemming from his interview with another officer the same day.
Each count carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.
Chicago police initially investigated the incident as a possible hate crime but later said Smollett, who plays a gay musician on the Fox network hip-hop drama Empire, staged the attack, recruiting two brothers to carry it out, in a hoax orchestrated to somehow further his acting career.
Smollett’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, blasted the indictment in a statement as “redundant and vindictive”, adding that his client “adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption”.