A grand jury indicted actor Jussie Smollett on 16 felony charges on Friday over his claim that he was the victim of a hate-motivated attack in January.
Smollett was previously charged with one count related to making a false police report. On Friday, a grand jury in Cook County, Illinois, expanded the case against the Empire star, finding enough evidence for him to face additional charges related to lying to multiple police officials and filing the false report.
The number of charges was overkill, Smollett's lawyer Mark Geragos said in a statement.
"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," he said. "Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption.”
Smollett told Chicago police that he had been attacked in the early hours of Jan. 29 by two men who threw a chemical at him, put a rope around his neck, called him anti-gay slurs, and referenced President Trump's MAGA slogan.
"Jussie Smollett knew that ... there was no reasonable ground for believing that such offenses had been committed," the grand jury said.
The case made national headlines and prompted sympathy for Smollett as well as calls for people to stand against hate. But as police investigated, questions arose about whether there was evidence the attack had actually happened.
Smollett insisted on Good Morning America that he was telling the truth, adding he was "pissed off" by the doubt he faced.
On Feb. 15, brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo were detained and, according to local media, told police that Smollett had paid them to stage the attack. An attorney for the brothers pushed back against the accuracy of those reports, but she did not provide more details about what the Osundairos had told authorities.
On Friday, a Chicago police spokesperson described the allegations against Smollett as "shameful."
"If proven, they are an affront to the people of Chicago who embraced him as a neighbor & respected him as a role model," Anthony Guglielmi said in a tweet.
Smollett had been released on bond after first being charged last month. His representative did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment.
A spokesperson for Fox, which airs Empire, also declined to comment Friday afternoon.