Published: Thu, March 14, 2019
Life&Culture | By Sue Mclaughlin

Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to staging hate-crime attack

Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to staging hate-crime attack

Actor Jussie Smollett will appear in court Thursday for a second time this week after he was indicted on 16 felony counts for allegedly staging a hate crime and filing a false police report.

Lawyer Tina Glandian entered the plea on behalf of the 36-year-old actor during a hearing in Cook county circuit court after Judge Steven Watkins was assigned to oversee the case, including the future trial.

After Smollett pleaded not guilty, Cook County Judge Steven Watkins granted him permission to travel to NY and California to consult with his attorneys, if he provides 48 hours notice to the court's pretrial services office.

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett is charged with disorderly conduct, accused of orchestrating a fake hate crime against himself because he was upset with his salary.

Empire actor Jussie Smollett, center, arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court Building for his hearing on Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Chicago.

"Yes, sir", Smollett said in a soft voice as the judge instructed him that he would next return to court on April 12. He said at least one of them had invoked President Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan by yelling "This is MAGA country" during the attack.

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Police and prosecutors have said that Smollett hired two brothers to stage the attack.

Judge Watkins approved a request from Smollett's lawyers that the actor be allowed to travel freely to NY and California to consult with his bicoastal legal teams.

Smollett's attorneys have said he welcomes cameras in court, as a counter to "misinformation" they claim has been leaked to the media since he reported being attacked in Streeterville in January. The actor's attorney Mark Geragos called the indictment "vindictive" and "prosecutorial overkill". Soon after the alleged incident was made public, police confirmed that the FBI would be assisting in the investigation and that Smollett had earlier received a threatening letter at the Chicago studio where the Fox drama is filmed.

Smollett was initially charged with one count of lying to the authorities on February 20.

Fox cut Smollett's character in "Empire" after he was arrested.

Outside the courthouse on Thursday, about a dozen supporters gathered with signs, chanting that his prosecution was unjust.

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