Mark Geragos, a member of Jussie Smollett’s defense team, said Friday that news that the “Empire” star was indicted on 16 felony counts by a Cook County Grand Jury on Friday was not a surprise to him.
“This is not a newsflash. I expected it,” Geragos 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 above.
In a separate statement provided to TheWrap, Geragos said: “The fact of an indictment was not unexpected. We knew that there is no way they would expose their evidence to a public airing and subject their witnesses to cross-examination. What is unexpected, however, is the prosecutorial overkill in charging 16 separate counts against Jussie.
“This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines in order to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the outrageous leaking of false information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie’s privacy in tampering with his medical records,” the statement continued, without offering any evidence for those claims of misconduct by authorities. “Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption.”
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. A spokesperson for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Smollett is due back in court on Thursday, March 14 at 11:30 a.m CST.
“Obviously, they have their ability to do whatever they’re going to do and we will push back against it,” Geragos said in his taped interview. This is not the first time the high-profile defense attorney has spoken publicly about the case; he commented extensively on his “Reasonable Doubt” podcast last month that he co-hosts with Adam Carolla.
Smollett 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.”
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.
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. 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, 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. 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.