"Empire" actor attorney calls 16-count indictment "vindictive"

"Empire" actor attorney calls 16-count indictment "vindictive"

Not long after Jussie Smollett was indicted by a grand jury Friday on 16 felony counts, for allegedly "staging" his own hate crime, the actor's attorney came to his swift defense.

Each charge could carry a potential sentence of probation to three years if convicted.

The indictment, which was made public on Friday, cites Smollett with disorderly conduct for each crime he said he had suffered, with separate counts related to statements he made the night of January 29 to a police officer, and then for repeating the same account to a detective the same night. The letter is now in the FBI crime lab for analysis, sources said, and experts believe Smollett could face federal charges for allegedly sending the letter.

Chicago Police have alleged that Smollett paid the two men, brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo, $3,500 to stage the attack and that he instructed them to buy the noose at a hardware store.

"Jussie has been an important member of our "Empire" family for the past five years and we care about him deeply".

The actor was released after he posted $10,000 of his $100,000 bond.

Smollett, 36, and his attorneys have previously denied the allegations against him, and the actor still insists that the attack was real. He also said that the men "poured an unknown chemical substance on him" and that one man wrapped a rope around his neck.

Police said the two brothers wore gloves during the staged attack, and did punch Smollett, but the scratches and bruises on Smollett's face most likely were self-inflicted.

Smollett himself, according to reports in media citing unnamed sources, apologised last month to the cast and crew on the set of Empire but maintained his innocence. He has now been accused of falsely reporting a hate crime.

Smollett was charged last month with felony disorderly conduct for the allegedly false report he made with Chicago police.

Police say Smollett - who gained fame on Fox musical drama "Empire" - staged the attack in a bid to gain publicity and a bigger paycheck.

The disorderly conduct charges refer specifically to "false report of offense" and are Class 4 felonies.

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.

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