UPDATE: Jussie Smollett plead not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reports. The former Empire actor was arrested after allegedly orchestrating a hate crime against himself, though he was released from prison after posting $10,000 of a $100,000 bond. At the hearing, Judge Steven Gregory Watkins allowed Smollett to travel to California and New York to meet with his lawyers, though he also ordered Smollett to appear at every future court hearing. The next one is scheduled for April 17th.
A grand jury indicted Jussie Smollett with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct Thursday, adding to the Empire actor’s legal woes after he allegedly orchestrated a hate crime against himself.
Each count of “false report of offense” is a Class 4 felony and, if convicted, Smollett could face up to three years in prison. The actor previously pleaded not guilty when arrested on a felony charge that he filed a false police report stemming from the January 29th attack in Chicago.
“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 police chief communications officer Anthony Guglielmi tweeted Friday, when the grand jury indictment was unsealed. “We stand behind the work of detectives & refer any comment on indictment to prosecutors.”
Smollett’s lawyer Mark Geragos called the grand jury indictment “redundant and vindictive” and said Smollett “adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption,” Reuters reported.
The 16 charges stem from each false claim that Smollett told police in two separate interviews in regards to the alleged “hate crime,” including that his attackers poured an unknown chemical on him and yelled homophobic and racist slurs at him.
In the grand jury indictment, each count summarizes Smollett’s statement to police following the January 29th attack. “Jussie Smollett knew that at the time of this transmission [to police] there was no reasonable ground for believing that such offenses had been committed,” the indictment claims.
“[The grand jury] decided he told multiple lies,” CBS 2 Chicago legal analyst Irv Miller said. “There were going to charge him for each. If you have a crime, and that crime has multiple parts to it, you charge all those separate parts.”
Smollett remains out on bail following his February 21st arrest; he won’t be re-arrested following the grand jury indictment because it pertains to the same case. Smollett, who was written out of Empire‘s final episodes this season following his arrest, will be arraigned on the new charges on March 14th.