Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to staging hate-crime attack

Police claim that Jussie Smollett staged a homophobic and racist attack on himself

Police claim that Jussie Smollett staged a homophobic and racist attack on himself

Jussie Smollett has pleaded not guilty to 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct, maintaining his innocence amid allegations that he faked a possible hate crime against himself earlier this year.

A grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for filing a false report.

The Smollett incident has so far unfolded during a scheduled hiatus, and while the show is still the network's second highest rated drama among key demographics, according to CNN, ratings have been flagging.

The actor unexpectedly showed up at a procedural hearing on March 12 for his California-based primary defense lawyer Mark Geragos to enter the necessary paperwork to represent Smollett in the state of IL. Prosecutors said one had supplied Smollett with "designer drugs" in the past.

Smollett is due back in front of a judge for a hearing on April 17. Chicago police say the money was for the staged attack, while Smollett claims it was for a five-week nutrition and workout program, as noted in the check's memo.

According to prosecutors, Smollett wrote a $3,500 check to two brothers and gave them $100 to buy the rope, ski masks, gloves and red baseball caps used in the supposed January 29 attack.

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Watkins granted Smollett's request to be allowed to leave the state meet with his lawyers in NY and California, but said the actor must give the court at least 48 hours' prior notice.

Police and prosecutors have said that Smollett hired two brothers to stage the attack. His attorneys have called the charges against him "prosecutorial overkill".

Cameras were allowed in the courtroom Thursday, though there was no live feed of the proceedings.

There were several supporters outside the courthouse doors as Smollett arrived for the hearing, including some who waved signs.

Almost a month and a half after Jussie Smollett claimed he was brutally assaulted in the streets of Chicago, theEmpire actor appeared in court today to enter a plea to multiple charges of having given a false account to the police.

Smollett's arraignment hearing followed the midseason premiere of "Empire", which resumed Wednesday.

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