Actor Jussie Smollett has been indicted by a special prosecutor in Illinois on six counts of lying to police.
The Empire actor said he was the subject of a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago last year. Authorities have accused him of staging the attack on himself for publicity, something he has always denied.
Smollett now faces six counts of disorderly conduct, special prosecutor Dan Webb said in a statement. The actor had claimed he was walking home in January 2019 when masked men approached him, made racist and homophobic remarks, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing.
He had also claimed one of the assailants told him he was in “MAGA country” , a reference to Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again”. Smollett was initially charged with disorderly conduct in February 2019 for allegedly staging the attack and lying about it to investigators – but the charges were dropped the following month with little explanation.
Police claimed he had paid two friends to help him stage the assault because he was unhappy with his pay for his role as gay character Jamal Lyon in Fox show Empire, and he wanted to promote his career. Dan Webb, special prosecutor, was appointed to look into why the charges were dropped a few months later.
He said prosecuting Smollett was “in the interest of justice” for a number of reasons – including the extensive details of Smollett’s false account as well as the police resources that the investigation required. Smollett’s attorney, Tina Glandian, has questioned the decision to file new charges – and challenged the integrity of the latest investigation.
The actor is set to appear in court on 24 February. It isn’t clear what type of sentence he could face if convicted. Police have sued Smollett to seek compensation for $130,000 (£100,000) of overtime paid to officers who were involved in investigating his allegations.