Feb. 24 (UPI) — Television actor Jussie Smollett will be arraigned Monday on a six-count indictment charging him with falsely reporting that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack near his Chicago home.
Smollett, 37, was expected to plead not guilty to felony charges of disorderly conduct during his appearance in Cook County Circuit Court a day after Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot declared that he should be should be “held accountable” for falsely reporting a crime.
Formerly a cast member of the popular television show Empire, Smollett — who is black and openly gay — was indicted this month by a special grand jury that accused him of filing false police reports in connection with a January 2019 incident in which he said he was attacked by two white men who looped a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him after taunting him with racial, homophobic remarks.
In a case that divided the nation along lines of race and sexual orientation, police ultimately said incident was a hoax and that Smollett staged the assault to bolster his career, and charged him with 16 counts of disorderly conduct. Those charges were dropped a month later in a controversial move by Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
A Chicago judge subsequently accepted a petition to reopen the case and appointed former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb to lead a new inquiry. Following a six-month investigation, Webb announced the new charges.
Smollett is expected remain free on bond after entering his plea Monday as he awaits trial. He has steadfastly maintained his innocence and contends police have overlooked witnesses who corroborate his story.
Lightfoot said Sunday Smollett needs to take responsibility for damage caused to the city.
“He needs to face the charges,” she said. “He committed a crime, and he needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and we are going to continue to aggressively make him accountable for the wasted police resources that went into investigating what turned out to be a total hoax.”