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Jussie Smollett ‘maintains his innocence’ after indictment

The ‘Empire’ star was accused of the felony crime after he alleged he was the victim of a homophobic and racist hate attack on 29 January.

FILE: US television actor Jussie Smollett. Picture: @jussiesmollett/Facebook.com.

LONDON - Jussie Smollett “maintains his innocence” after being indicted with 16 counts of filing a false police report.

The Empire star was accused of the felony crime after he alleged he was the victim of a homophobic and racist hate attack on 29 January and was indicted with the charges on Friday, following allegations that the attack was a hoax.

But his lawyer Mark Geragos has slammed the ruling as “prosecutorial overkill”, and insists his client is “adamantly” maintaining his innocence ahead of the case going to trial.

In a statement to People magazine, he said: “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 Smollett.

“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 Smollett’s privacy in tampering with his medical records. Smollett adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption.”

Of the 16 new counts, eight charges involve false statements given to Officer Muhammed Baig, while the other eight are for a more detailed account given to Detective Kim Murray.

Smollett had told police he was assaulted at 2am by two men who shouted homophobic and racist slurs at him and put a noose around his neck. In the more detailed account, he claimed that he fought back, and that one of the attackers was white.

The indictment read: “Jussie Smollett knew that at the time of this transmission there was no reasonable ground for believing that such an offence had been committed.”

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