Jussie Smollett's attorney calls 16-count indictment 'vindictive' and 'prosecutorial overkill'

Empire actor Jussie Smollett leaves Cook County jail after posting bond on February 21, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. Smollett has been accused of arranging an attack against himself. (Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)

Not long after Jussie Smollett was indicted by a grand jury Friday on 16 felony counts, for allegedly “staging” his own hate crime, the actor’s attorney came to his swift defense.

“What is happening here is frankly a media gang-bαng of this guy of unprecedented proportions,” Mark Geragos told Anderson Cooper Friday night. “I’ve never seen a media pendulum swing more quickly and more viciously and rob somebody of their presumption of innocence like this case. It’s startling the way people assume that he’s guilty.”


“The fact of an indictment was not unexpected,” Gregors told the Wrap. “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.”

The 30-page indictment reveals eight felony counts for his initial story to Chicago Police and eight more counts for the story he subsequently told a detective. Smollett, an actor on Empire, said he been the victim of a racist, homophobic attack at the hands of two men who poured bleach on him and put a noose around his neck. The attack followed just weeks after Smollett says he received a life-threatening letter.

During a recent press conference, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett exploited the “pain and anger of racism” in order to stage the attack. But his attorney suggests that the charges are an attempt to cover the departments own internal investigation. “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,” Geragos told the AP.

If convicted of the charges, Smollett could spend years in prison.

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