Jussie Smollett Indicted on 16 Felony Counts by Grand Jury

“Empire” star was originally charged with one count — filing a false police report — last month

Last Updated: March 8, 2019 @ 5:00 PM

Jussie Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for making a false report by a Chicago grand jury Friday, according to NBC News.

The “Empire” star was originally charged with one felony count for filing a false police report by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office last month, in connection to the incident that he reported on Jan. 29 where he said he was attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs and referenced “MAGA.”

A spokesperson for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office did not immediately confirm reports of the grand jury’s 16-count indictment against Smollett when reached by TheWrap.

“This is not a newsflash. I expected it,” Mark Geragos, a member of Jussie Smollett’s defense team, told “Access” on Friday. “The way the process operates is they have to do a probable cause proceeding, so this is what’s called a probable cause proceeding. I never thought they would do a preliminary hearing.” Watch the clip here.

Attorneys and representatives for Smollett — who have continuously denied the accusations against him — did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

“As Supt Johnson stated, allegations against Mr. Smollett are shameful & if proven, they are an affront to the people of Chicago who embraced him as a neighbor & respected him as a role model,” Chicago Chief Communications Officer Anthony Guglielmi tweeted Friday, after the news broke. “We stand behind the work of detectives & refer any comment on indictment to prosecutors.”

Smollett surrendered himself to Chicago police on Feb. 21, hours after he was formally charged. He was released from police custody later that afternoon, after posting bail and surrendering his passport following a bond hearing.

The actor’s bail was set at $100,000, with Smollett required to post $10,000 (10 percent) for release. His next court date has been set for Thursday, March 14 at 11:30 a.m CST.

Smollett’s team put out this statement after the actor was released: “Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system. The presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon at the expense of Mr. Smollett and notably, on the eve of a Mayoral election. Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

Within hours of his release from police custody, Smollett returned to work on the set of “Empire.” However, the following day, executive producers announced that they had decided to remove the actor — who plays the openly gay Jamal Lyon — from the final two episodes of the show’s current season.

“The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us,” read the statement from “Empire” co-creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, showrunner Brett Mahoney, and executive producers Brian Grazer, Sanaa Hamri, Francie Calfo and Dennis Hammer.

“Jussie has been an important member of our ‘Empire’ family for the past five years and we care about him deeply,” the statement continued. “While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. 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.”

The decision to remove Smollett from the remaining episodes of Season 5 comes after “Empire” studio 20th Century Fox stated last month it was “considering [its] options” following the news of his arrest. A day earlier, the studio had renewed its support for the actor, saying, “Jussie Smollett continues to be a consummate professional on set and as we have previously stated, he is not being written out of the show.”

Representatives for Fox did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment on this story.

During a press conference last month, hours after Smollett’s surrender on Feb. 21, Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that the actor staged an attack on himself because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.” He also told reporters the police were in possession of a $3,500 check, which he said Smollett used to pay brothers Olabinjo (“Ola”) and Abimbola (“Abel”) Osundairo for the incident.

The Fox drama’s star is making around $125,000 per episode of “Empire,” an individual with knowledge told TheWrap, who added there had been no salary dispute between Smollett and the studio and that he had never even approached them about a raise.

Last week, the Osundairo brothers released a statement through their lawyer Gloria Schmidt expressing “tremendous regret” for their participation.

“My clients have tremendous regret over their involvement in this situation, and they understand how it has impacted people across the nation, particularly minority communities and especially those who have been victims of hate crimes themselves,” Schmidt said in a statement provided to TheWrap last Thursday.

TheWrap reached out to Schmidt immediately after we received the statement to ask if the brothers — who were initially persons of interest and turned out to have both worked on “Empire” — still fully maintain their story that Smollett paid them to stage an assault in Chicago on Jan. 29. Schmidt did not respond to our question.

The Osundairos were released without charges Feb. 15, following an arrest and 48-hour hold, after the police said “new evidence” had emerged and that the investigation’s “trajectory” had changed course.

A week before Smollett reported the attack, Fox received a letter threatening Smollett. In mid-February, ABC News reported that the FBI and U.S. Postal Service were looking into the possibility that Smollett had sent the threatening letter to himself, or played a role in its creation and delivery.

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