‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett indicted on 16 felony counts by grand jury

The release of the indictment came after the Chicago Police Department said it started an internal investigation into how information about the alleged hate crime against Smollett was anonymously leaked to reporters.

"Jussie Smollett knew that at the time of this transmission there was no reasonable ground for believing that such offenses had been committed", the indictment states. Cook County prosecutors chose to charge Smollett with the single count while awaiting the decision of a so-called "John Doe" jury, which sits daily in Chicago criminal court and analyzes evidence presented without knowledge of the perpetrator.

It elaborates on the allegation that he falsely reported that he was attacked on January 28 by two masked men who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at the black and openly gay actor, beat him, threw an unidentified liquid chemical on him and looped a rope tied like a noose around his neck. Although prosecutors had already issued the single charge, the grand jury, apparently, was still processing evidence supplied by the Chicago Police Department.

Two men were originally arrested for the alleged attack, but were later cleared of charges after police claimed that Smollett paid the men to stage the attack.

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Neither Smollett's attorney nor his spokeswoman could immediately be reached for comment on the latest charges.

Jussie Smollett (second from L) appears in an episode of "Empire" with (L to R) Bryshere Gray, Taraji Henson, and Terrence Howard. He also said that the men "poured an unknown chemical substance on him" and that one man wrapped a rope around his neck.

Smollett was charged in February with felony disorderly conduct.

The second has to do with what Smollett told police in an interview. The jury further found that Smollett told the original officer that the attackers called him racial and homophobic slurs and struck him in the face with their hands.

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His lawyers last month said they were conducting a thorough investigation for the purposes of mounting a defence of the actor.

Smollett is due in court next week. The charges would run concurrently, so the sentencing range would still be one to three years in prison.

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".

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