US actor charged in relation to attack hoax

A US television actor who was accused of fabricating a hate crime was indicted on six counts related to the incident on Tuesday, after all charges against him were

dropped last year.

Former "Empire" star Jussie Smollett was indicted by a grand jury in Cook County, which handles crimes in Chicago, on six counts of disorderly conduct related to the alleged false reporting.

The 37-year-old, who had been one of the Fox musical drama's main cast members, was accused of masterminding a hoax attack in Chicago to gain publicity and secure a bigger paycheck.

He reported to police in January 2019 that he was attacked in the middle of the night by two masked men while walking near his home in the large midwestern city.

But Chicago police eventually said he staged the whole thing.

Smollett, who is gay and African American, maintained his innocence in the face of a damning public account from authorities of their case against him.

They accused him of sending himself a threatening letter -- complete with homophobic and racial slurs -- and hiring two acquaintances to stage the attack while invoking Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.

The curious case got even weirder when Cook County prosecutors eventually dropped the initial 16 felony counts against him last March.

The city did, however, send a letter to Smollett's attorneys, asking the actor to pay the $130,000 cost of overtime work related to the police investigation.

The episode revived America's long-simmering debate about how just the country's criminal justice system really is, whether the rich get off easy -- and whether prosecutors should have so much discretion.afp

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