Chicago, Mar 9 (AP/UNB) — A grand jury in Chicago indicted "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett on 16 felony counts related to making a false report that he was attacked by two men who shouted racial and homophobic slurs.
The Cook County grand jury indictment dated Thursday and made public on Friday gives details of the disorderly conduct charge against Smollett. It elaborates on the allegation that he falsely reported that he was attacked on Jan. 28 by two masked men who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at the black and openly gay actor, beat him, threw an unidentified liquid chemical on him and looped a rope tied like a noose around his neck.
The indictment — eight counts from what he told the officer who responded to the report of the attack and eight for what he later told a detective — comes a little more than two weeks after prosecutors announced one felony count of the same charge.
Chicago police initially investigated the incident as a possible hate crime but later said Smollett staged the attack, recruiting two brothers to carry it out, because he was unhappy with his pay on the Fox show.
Indictments like the one revealed Friday are common in criminal cases. It was widely expected, said Mark Geragos, a prominent attorney representing Smollett.
"The way the process operates is they have to do a probable cause proceeding, so this is what's called a probable cause proceeding.I never thought they would do a preliminary hearing," Geragos told NBC's "Access" after the indictment was reported.
Smollett, who was released on bail from jail the day after he was charged on Feb. 20, is scheduled to appear in court next week. He has denied the allegations.
While it was not immediately clear why the grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 counts, it divides what prosecutors and police say the actor told the officer who responded to the initial call from what he said to the detective.
The second eight counts are more explosive because they include two things that helped propel the incident into an international sensation. The first is that by the time he talked to the detective, Smollett said he could see through the eye holes of one attacker's mask that he was a white man. The two brothers who allegedly participated are black.
"He took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career," Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who is black, told reporters the day Smollett was initially charged. Johnson said Smollett paid the two brothers $3,500 to carry out the staged attack.
The second eight counts also include the allegation that Smollett told the detective one of the attackers looped a rope around his neck — a detail that both Johnson and the judge who set Smollett's bond said was a particularly offensive use of a symbol of the ugly history of black lynchings in the United States.
The indictment, written in the dry legal language, does not include new details.
It says that Smollett knew at the time he relayed his account that he had "no reasonable ground that such an offense had been committed."
Since Smollett's arrest, the producers of "Empire" announced that the actor's character would be removed from the season's final two episodes.
Morocco, Feb 24 (AP/UNB) — Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, have arrived in Morocco for an official trip scheduled to be their last international journey before she gives birth to their first child.
Meghan is seven months pregnant and is expected to have their child in April.
The royal couple's schedule begins Sunday in the town of Asni in the Atlas Mountains to hear about the education of girls in rural communities.
They will then travel to Rabat to meet with diplomats, influential women, young entrepreneurs and disabled athletes.
The visit will also include a trip to the Moroccan Royal Federation of Equestrian Sports to observe horses that provide support to children with special needs.
Harry and Meghan plan to return to Britain Tuesday.
New York, Feb 20 (AP/UNB) — Meghan Markle has been spotted at several swanky venues in New York City, cradling her baby bump as she visited friends for what is rumored to be a baby shower.
The 37-year-old pregnant Meghan, formally known as the Duchess of Sussex, was seen Tuesday entering The Mark hotel on Manhattan's Upper East Side, at a restaurant on the ground floor of The Met Breuer and at The Surrey Hotel.
Meghan wore sunglasses, a black William Vintage trapeze coat and neutral high heels with a matching bag. As photographers waited outside the Mark, a high-end boxed crib and pink flowers were delivered.
Abigail Spencer, a co-star on Meghan's former TV show "Suits," was spotted at one of the gatherings.
Meghan and Prince Harry announced the pregnancy in October.
London, Feb 3 (AP/UNB) — Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, has written personal messages to women being helped by a charity that seeks to help sex workers break free from prostitution.
Prince Harry's wife took the unusual step of writing the messages on the skins of bananas destined for the food parcels that would be handed out to the women Friday.
Meghan wrote sentiments such as "You are strong," ''You are special," and "You are brave!" with hearts next to them. She was visiting the One25 organization in Bristol, southwest England.
She said the messages were inspired after she learned of a program "this woman had started in the States on a school lunch program when on each of the bananas she wrote an affirmation or something to make the kids feel really empowered."
Nashville, Jan 6 (AP/UNB) — Singer Kid Rock has hit another sour note with some in Nashville, this time over a large sign planned for his recently opened bar.
News outlets report the 20-foot-tall (6-meter-tall) neon sign will feature a giant guitar in which the base of the instrument is intentionally shaped like a woman's buttocks.
Metro Council approved the necessary aerial encroachment to allow for construction and installation of the sign. Mayor David Briley signed into law the council resolution authorizing the sign Friday.
But its approval didn't sit well with several council members, who called the sign tacky and bemoaned that Lower Broadway has steered further away from a place for family fun.
In November, Kid Rock's profane comments on live TV got him booted from leading the Nashville Christmas Parade.