Friday, 24 May, 2019


Empire actor Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty at hearing

Empire actor Jussie Smollett center arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court Building for his hearing on Thursday Empire actor Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty at hearing
Hannah Rogers | 14 March, 2019, 20:42

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty in a Chicago court on Thursday to new charges that he falsely reported to police that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic assault on a city street.

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 trial. After an investigation by the Chicago Police, Smollett was found to have orchestrated the attack on himself, paying two brothers to jump him, pour bleach on him and tie a noose around his neck.

Presiding Criminal Court Judge LeRoy Martin allowed a camera in the courtroom for Thursday's arraignment, but it will be up to Watkins, Smollett's trial judge, to decide whether cameras will be in court for future hearings. Prosecutors allege that Smollett paid the men $3,500 to stage the attack, in an apparent bid for sympathy.

Smollett maintains his innocence. 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.

Smollett, who left the courthouse without speaking to reporters, is charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct.

The actor's plea comes just a month and a half after his original police report grabbed national attention.

Smollett's next hearing was scheduled for April 17. The actor's attorney Mark Geragos called the indictment "vindictive" and "prosecutorial overkill".

"We welcome cameras in the courtroom so that the public and the media can see the actual evidence and what we believe is the lack of evidence against Mr. Smollett, and we look forward to complete transparency and the truth coming out", she said at a news conference earlier this week.

Not much later, Chicago police revealed they had evidence pointing to the Hollywood star lying about the attack, accusing him of paying his "attackers", all so he could get more attention and score a bigger salary from Empire.

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

The counts in the indictment obtained by CNN say Smollett gave statements to a Chicago police officer after the incident and to a detective.

"The fact of an indictment was not unexpected", the statement read.

The actor was arrested February 21, and police said at a media briefing that Smollett had faked the attack because he was "dissatisfied" with his salary for playing Jamal Lyon on "Empire". The decision was made to "avoid further disruption on set", producers said.

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