Empire actor Jussie Smollett was indicted Thursday by a Chicago grand jury on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report claiming he was the victim of a hate crime.
Smollett, who was previously charged with one count of disorderly conduct last month, is accused of staging the racial and homophobic attack on himself in January, paying two men to yell slurs at him, pour bleach on him, and wrap a rope around his neck.
According to local news station ABC7 Chicago, the indictment from a Cook County grand jury includes two separate sets of charges: One “related to what Smollett told officers about the alleged attack,” and another “related to the second interview Smollett had with police about the alleged attack later that day.”
The new sets of charges reportedly carry a potential sentence of up to four years in prison. The Cook County State’s Attorney's Office confirmed the indictment to ABC7 Chicago.
The actor was originally charged with one felony count related to filing a police report in February. At the time, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson called Smollett a “troubled young man” who paid two brothers $3,500 to assault him because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” and wanted to promote his career. The brothers were allegedly told to yell, “This is MAGA country,” and use the n-word.
Johnson alleged Smollett’s deception started when he sent a threatening letter to himself featuring “racial, homophobic and political language.”
“Why would anyone—especially an African-American man—use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations?” Johnson said. “How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?”
Smollett, who has maintained his innocence, was taken into custody on Feb. 21, and posted $100,000 bond for his release.
Before he was charged, Smollett went on national television and said he was “pissed off” at those who doubted his story.
“It’s unbelievable to me that anything of this has come to this,” he told Good Morning America in February. “That every single thing that I have done, every single thing that I have cooperated with, somehow has gotten twisted into being some bull that it’s not.”