A grand jury returned a six-count indictment accusing actor Jussie Smollett of lying to Chicago police, a special prosecutor announced Tuesday.
Smollett faces six counts of disorderly conduct, special prosecutor Dan Webb said in a statement.
The charges stem from Smollett’s assertion that he was the target of a racist and homophobic attack in January 2019.
Smollett originally indicted on 16 felony counts of filing a false police report, but prosecutors in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office abruptly dropped the charges, angering police and City Hall officials and leading to the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate that decision.
The actor told investigators that his attackers yelled homophobic and racist slurs at him, threw liquid on him and draped a noose around his neck, alleging they screamed “This is MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan.
But after several weeks of investigation, Chicago police claimed that he made the whole thing up, hiring two brothers to pretend-attack him in order to boost his profile and paycheck on “Empire.”
The city of Chicago went to state court in April to sue Smollett to recoup the cost in police overtime – set at $130,000 – in investigating his original claims. The lawsuit was later moved to federal court after Smollett’s attorneys argued that is the proper venue because Smollett, who lived in Chicago while filming “Empire,” is actually a California resident.
Smollett’s lawyers sought to have the lawsuit thrown out on multiple grounds, including that Smollett himself did not direct Chicago police to spend weeks investigating his claim and could not have known how much time and money would be spent.
In an October ruling, U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall said “it isn’t unreasonable to think” the Chicago police would make a strong effort to investigate a purported racist and homophobic attack, especially given Smollett’s celebrity and the “volatile climate” of the city.
Smollett has insisted he is innocent and was exonerated. In October, he posted a comment on Instagram responding after comparisons were made on social media between Smollett and a 12-year-old Virginia girl whose family admitted she made up her claim that white students held her down and cut her dreadlocks.
“With all due respect brother, y’all can clown me all you want but my story has actually never changed and I haven’t lied about a thing,” Smollett wrote on the post. “Y’all can continue to be misinformed, internalized sheep, who believe what actual proven liars feed you or you can read the actual docs. Either way, Imma be alright. I know me and what happened. You don’t. So carry on. All Love.”
In June, Chicago police released video of Smollett with the rope around his neck and of supplies being purchased for the allegedly staged attack on the “Empire” actor.
Other files released include surveillance footage collected by police and footage of the brothers who say they were paid to orchestrate the January attack. As ABC7 and CBS Chicago report, nearly 70 hours of video were released, including footage of Smollett in his downtown apartment wearing a white sweater and a rope that looks like a noose.
“Empire” is in its sixth and final season, and Smollett lost his role on the show shortly after the scandal hit headlines.
Contributing: Maria Puente, Carly Mallenbaum, Associated Press