Jussie Smollett 'maintains innocence' after 16-count indictment

10 March, 2019, 09:23 | Author: Raquel Nash
  • Actor Jussie Smollett leaves Cook County jail following his release in Chicago Feb. 21 2019.
Kamil Krzaczynski  AP File

Empire actor Jussie Smollett is facing 16 counts of disorderly conduct after a jury returned an indictment against him on Thursday, reports said.

According to the indictment, Smollett claimed that he was attacked by two men around 2 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29, one of whom was wearing a mask.

Each of the charges carries a potential sentence of anything between probation and four years in prison.

The disorderly conduct charges refer specifically to "false report of offense" and are Class 4 felonies.

Smollett has remained free on $100,000 bond since his release hours after surrendering to authorities on February 21.

He also claimed the men said "this is Maga country" during the assault, a reference to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again".

They said Abel Osundairo and Smollett were close when they worked together on the set of "Empire", where Abel was a stand-in for a love interest of Smollett's character, Jamal Lyon, and Ola was an extra. Local media have reported that the Chicago Police Department is investigating leaks to reporters during the investigation of the reported attack.

Smollett still maintains that he is innocent.

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The Empire star was reportedly attacked by two masked figures, later said to be brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo.

Another explanation for the multiple counts is that perhaps Smollett gave multiple statements to the police, meaning that individual counts represent separate interviews with police.

What the lawyer is referencing is the open investigation into Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where Smollett was treated after the alleged attack.

Smollett reported to police in January that he had been attacked in Chicago in an incident that ended with a noose around his neck.

Mark Geragos, Jussie Smollett's attorney, on the media's coverage of Smollett and on his client being indicted on 16 felony counts: "What is happening here is, frankly, a media gang bang of this guy of unprecedented proportions".

The counts focus on allegedly false statements he made to two different Chicago Police officers.

Police initially treated the incident as a hate crime, but their focus turned to Smollett after two brothers who were alleged to have been his attackers told police that Smollett had paid them $3,500 to stage the attack, with a promise of another $500 later.

When asked about the indictment, a Fox spokesman declined to comment. Chicago police eventually arrested him and said he had "staged" the attack in order to receive a higher salary and "promote his career".

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