Chicago grand jury indicts actor for alleged hate attack hoax

39;Empire' actor indicted on 16 felony counts by grand jury

Empire star Jussie Smollett has been indicted on 16 felony charges by a grand jury, as an investigation continues into who leaked information to the media.

The indictment states that at the time Smollett reported being physically struck, having racial and homophobic slurs hurled at him and that the attackers poured a chemical substance on him.

Smollett, who claimed he was the subject of a racist and homophobic attack at the hands of two men on January 29 in Chicago, told investigators that he was attacked by two masked men "yelling out racial and homophobic slurs".

The counts focus on allegedly false statements made to two different Chicago Police officers.

Each charge is said to carry a potential sentence of probation to four years behind bars.

Smollett was subsequently charged with filing a false police report just under a month later - the charge could bring as many as three years in prison.

Smollett was released on $100,000 bail, and his attorneys have previously denied that he played a role in the attack.

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Two days after the alleged attack, Chicago police released surveillance images of two people they said they considered persons of interest in the attack. The two brothers who allegedly participated are black. Donald Trump, Jr. said, "It appears that Jussie Smollett tried to manufacture a hate crime to make Trump supporters look bad, and most of the media not only uncritically accepted his lies as facts for weeks, but attacked those who questioned the validity of his false story".

A week before the alleged attack, Smollett told police he received a threatening letter at work. On Friday, 20th Century Fox said the studio and the network had no comment.

Within days of the "Good Morning America" interview, police announced that the trajectory of the criminal investigation had shifted, and that Smollett was being treated as a suspect.

Smollett had told police he was assaulted at 2am by two men who shouted homophobic and racist slurs at him and put a noose around his neck.

Smollett has been written out of the rest of Empire's fifth season, which is now airing on Fox.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said at a press conference last month that police found the "check that [Smollett] used to pay [two brothers]" to fake the beating, adding he paid them $3,500 "for the two of them in total, and then $500 upon return".