Jussie Smollett Charged By Grand Jury Over Empire Star’s Alleged Hate Attack Hoax

The US actor could face up to three years in prison.

Empire actor Jussie Smollett has been indicted on 16 counts of filing a false police report, after he allegedly staged a homophobic and racist hate attack in January.

According to Variety, a Cook County grand jury handed the 36-year-old the indictment on Friday after the actor was previously charged with a single count for the alleged false filing, which carries the possibility of up to three years in prison.

Jussie Smollett
Jussie Smollett
Nuccio DiNuzzo via Getty Images

Of the 16 new counts, eight charges involve false statements given to Officer Muhammed Baig, while the other eight are for a more detailed account given to Detective Kim Murray.

Jussie had told police he was assaulted in the early hours of the morning in Chicago by two men who he claimed shouted homophobic and racist slurs at him before placing a noose around his neck.

Police say he staged the attack because he was “dissatisfied” with his Empire salary. Last month he was suspended from the US TV show.

The indictment read: “Jussie Smollett knew that at the time of this transmission there was no reasonable ground for believing that such an offense had been committed.”

Although he faces several charges, former Cook County prosecutor Andrew Weisberg says the number of counts won’t have an effect on Jussie’s sentence, should he be convicted.

Handout via Getty Images

Andrew told Variety magazine that the counts will run concurrently, so the sentencing range would still be one to three years in prison.

He added: “I would still expect a period of probation, a psychological evaluation and restitution to cover costs of the investigation. I would still be surprised if he goes to prison.”

Jussie has denied the allegations against him, and his attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson recently said a “thorough investigation” into the claims is still ongoing.

They said: “Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked.

“Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”