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Jussie Smollett attorney calls 16-count indictment ​"vindictive"

Jussie Smollett indicted in Chicago
Jussie Smollett indicted on 16 felony counts by grand jury 02:00

Chicago -- Mark Geragos, an attorney for Jussie Smollett, said a 16-count indictment against the "Empire" actor is "vindictive" and that Smollett "maintains his innocence." Geragos said in a statement he did not expect a Cook County grand jury would charge Smollet with 16 separate counts.

He said the indictment is "prosecutorial overkill."

The 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 information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie's privacy," Geragos said.  

Smollett is charged with disorderly conduct for making a false report of an attack on him in Chicago. Local media have reported that the Chicago Police Department is investigating leaks to reporters during the investigation of the reported attack.

The 36-year-old actor, who is black and openly gay, plays Jamal Lyon on Fox's hit TV show, "Empire," a drama that chronicles a family-run record label. He told police he was attacked by two masked men when he was returning home from a Subway sandwich store in late January around 2 a.m.

Smollett claimed the two men had beat him, said homophobic and racial slurs and put a looped rope around his neck before fleeing. He said he heard, "this is MAGA country," an apparent reference to President Trump's campaign slogan.

Police said Smollett staged the attack and recruited two brothers to participate. 

The executive producers of "Empire" said last month they are removing Jussie Smollett's character from the last two episodes of the show's season "to avoid further disruption on set." 

"While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out," the producers said.

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