Jussie Smollett is facing 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly faking an attack against himself, but the Empire actor is still adamantly maintaining his innocence.
Smollett was indicted by a grand jury on charges related to the January incident, in which he claimed he was attacked by two men saying racist and homophobic slurs as they beat him and placed a noose around his neck. But as Chicago police investigated, they found inconsistencies and ultimately charged Smollett with paying two friends to carry out the attack.
After the charges were laid on Friday, Smollett’s lawyer called it overkill and noted that the actor still maintains his innocence.
“The fact of an indictment was not unexpected. We knew that there is no way they would expose their evidence to a public airing and subject their witnesses to cross-examination,” attorney Mark Geragos said in a statement to People magazine. “What is unexpected, however, is the prosecutorial overkill in charging 16 separate counts against Jussie.”
Geragos went on to call the indictment “redundant and vindictive” and claimed that it was just an attempt to make headlines on the part of prosecutors. He also claimed that Chicago police tampered with Jussie Smollett’s medical records.
Chicago police initially investigated the attack as a potential hate crime, but later found surveillance video of two Nigerian brothers — Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo — in the vicinity of the attack. Investigators later found that Smollett had paid the brothers with a personal check, and video showed them buying the supplies that had been used in the attack.
The openly gay actor has faced considerable pushback after police said he faked the attack, with many who had initially backed Smollett apologizing and laying blame on him. TMZ reported that the allegations have also damaged his career, with job offers drying up since he was charged. There have also been reports that he could be fired from Empire, though the show’s producers have said they are investigating before making a decision.
Jussie Smollett's Job Offers Have Dried Up After Alleged Hoax https://t.co/cG5znNWU80— TMZ (@TMZ) March 9, 2019
Jussie Smollett could face some very harsh consequences for the allegedly fake attack. As The Source noted, all 16 of the felony counts face a maximum of three years in prison, so he could technically face more than 50 years in prison if he were convicted on all counts and if a judge ordered them to be served consecutively — though legal experts said that would be a most unlikely outcome. He likely faces a maximum of three years behind bars.