Empire actor Jussie Smollett on Friday was indicted by a grand jury in Chicago on 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct in connection to filing a false report about an alleged hate crime against himself.
The development comes after the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office approved a felony disorderly conduct charge against Smollett last month for allegedly filing a false police report on the January 29th incident. Smollett, who is African-American and gay, told police that he was assaulted while walking home from a downtown Chicago Subway sandwich shop. The actor claimed two masked individuals beat him, hurled racist and homophobic slurs, and doused him with an unknown chemical substance. Further, he alleged his assailants looped a thin rope around his neck and shouted “This is MAGA country” before fleeing the scene.
According to a four-page court filing detailing the allegations against Smollett, prosecutors charge the actor hired brothers Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo to help carry out the attack, directing them to buy masks and a rope at a hardware store. The court documents said Smollet instructed Abel Osundairo to “not hurt him too badly and give him a chance to appear to fight back.”
Smollett staged the attack against himself due to unhappiness with his salary and as a ploy to boost his career, prosecutors said. The actor reportedly earns over $100,000 per episode. He is also believed to have sent a threatening and racist letter to himself days before the staged assault.
Empire’s executive producers cut Smollett from the program’s final episodes this season in the wake of the actor’s legal woes. “While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays,” Empire producers Lee Daniels, Danny Strong, Brett Mahoney, Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo, and Dennis Hammer said of the decision. “We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of ‘Jamal’ from the final two episodes of the season.”
Meanwhile, Smollett’s legal team has vigorously defended their client against the allegations, even accusing police of denying him the presumption of innocence. In a statement, Smollett’s attorneys described the actor as “a man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence.” The attorneys also called Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson’s press conference laying out Smollett’s case “an organized law enforcement spectacle.”