Empire actor Jussie Smollett has been indicted by a grand jury on 16 charges following his arrest last month.
The American actor and singer was arrested last month on charges of filing a false police report, amid allegations that he paid two men to stage a racist and homophobic attack against him.
Now, a grand jury has now charged him with 16 counts of disorderly conduct. Smollett denies all the charges against him and is due to appear in court on 16th March.
The actor’s lawyers have described him as a “young man of impeccable character” and said they’ll “mount an aggressive defence” of their client.
In January, Smollett claimed two men had tied a noose around his neck and poured bleach on him while hurling racial insults as he went out late in the evening to buy food from a chain of Subway in Chicago. Later in the month, he detailed the events of the night to fans while on stage at a concert.
Two men were arrested over the incident but later released without charged and Smollett was arrested after it was alleged he’d paid them – with police claiming they have a cheque that showed the actor paid them $3,500.
In a press conference, Chicago PD Superintendent Eddie Johnson said they believed Smollett staged the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on Empire.
He said: “Why would anyone, especially an African-American man, use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations? How could someone look at the hatred and suffering associated with that symbol and see an opportunity to manipulate that symbol to further his own public profile?”
Following the hoax allegations, Smollett was removed from the final two episodes of the current season of Empire.
An official statement from Fox read: “The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2019
“Jussie has been an important member of our EMPIRE family for the past five years and we care about him deeply.
“While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out.
“We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show and to avoid further disruption on set, we have decided to remove the role of Jamal from the final two episodes of the season.”
President Trump also waded into the debate surrounding Smollett and accused him of making “racist and dangerous comments.”