Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to disorderly conduct charges
14 March, 2019, 19:11 | Author: Dominic Spencer
"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.
The hearing in Cook County Circuit Court began with Judge Steven Watkins being assigned to oversee the case, including the trial, if it reaches that point.
"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.
Prosecutors allege that Smollett, who is black and gay and plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox TV show, hired two friends to help him stage the attack on him in downtown Chicago early on the morning of January 29.
According to prosecutors, the two men were Abel and Ola Osundairo, who both worked on "Empire". Smollett's legal team entered the plea Thursday at a courthouse in Chicago, while the Empire actor and singer looked on silently.
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.
Smollett, who is free on bond, maintains his innocence.
Smollett's attorney Mark Geragos called the charges "prosecutorial overkill" in a statement last week. 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. It was unclear Thursday if cameras had been allowed inside the courtroom. That is not a point that prosecutors seem to have pursued in their case and one that various sources at Fox and others close to Smollett have scoffed at. Several people could be heard chanting "We are here today to support black people", "We are here today to support LGBTQ people" and "Justice for Jussie" as the actor arrived and walked into the building wearing a dark gray coat and sunglasses.
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