Jussie Smollett

On Friday, March 8, a Chicago grand jury returned a 16 felony-count indictment against actor Jussie Smollett after he was accused of faking a hate crime.

Smollett’s attorneys say that he is innocent until proven guilty.

“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,” Smollett’s lawyer Mark Geragos told The Wrap.

“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.” Meanwhile the attorneys for the men accused of being paid to attack Smollett say the men feel betrayed by the “Empire” star.

“This entire thing started because they put their trust in the wrong person,” attorney Gloria Schmidt said in an interview on CBSN.

“They feel tremendously regretful for their role in this, and their involvement in the situation,” Schmidt said. “The impact that this has had – not only on them, but on minority populations – that weighs very heavily on them.”

“They felt that their friend, someone who had helped them getting some connections, would not put them in a situation where they’re now being labeled as someone who would commit a hate crime,” she said. “I can tell you, with confidence, they did not commit a hate crime. They also did not know that their loyalty to him would be betrayed.”

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