After being indicted on 16 felony counts for allegedly filing a false police report, Jussie Smollett is “adamantly maintaining his innocence.” The “Empire” actor claimed to have been assaulted by two men who shouted homophobic and racial slurs at him in late January, sticking to his story even as it was met with increasing suspicion in the following weeks. Chicago police eventually arrested him and said he had “staged” the attack in order to receive a higher salary and “promote his career.”
Smollett’s attorney released the following statement after the actor was indicted yesterday:
“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. What is unexpected, however, is the prosecutorial overkill in charging 16 separate counts against Jussie. This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines in order to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the outrageous leaking of false information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie’s privacy in tampering with his medical records. Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption.”
Following Smollett’s arrest, Fox announced that his character would not appear in the remaining episodes of the show’s fifth season; reports have since emerged that he may be replaced altogether by a new actor, and co-creator Lee Daniels (on whom Smollett’s character of Jamal is loosely based) was “said to be a strong proponent of the recast option” as of late February.