A Chicago grand jury indicted American TV actor Jussie Smollett on 16 felony counts, after police accused him of staging a hate attack for personal gain, local media said Friday.
Smollett — who was dropped from the final two episodes of this season’s “Empire” television show amid fallout from the incident — was charged last month with one felony count of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report.
The specific charges against Smollett in the 16-count indictment were not immediately clear, but a local CBS affiliate said it alleges the actor knew “there was no reasonable ground for believing that such offenses had been committed.”
Smollett, who is gay and black, allegedly sent himself a threatening letter and then hired two acquaintances to stage a street attack in downtown Chicago, complete with homophobic and racial slurs, while invoking Donald Trump’s “Make American Great Again” slogan.
Chicago police said the 36-year-old actor engineered the elaborate hoax to exploit Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions in a bid to score publicity and a bigger paycheck.
The case has drawn intense national interest with everyone from politicians to celebrities and late night talk show hosts commenting.
Smollett has maintained his innocence, and in February was released on bond.