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‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty

15 March 2019
‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty

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.

The Empire actor is accused of lying to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack earlier this year.

Actor Jussie Smollett arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 14, 2019.

Smollett's attorney entered a not guilty plea on behalf of the 36-year-old actor, who stood next to his attorney with his hands behind his back.

Police said the two brothers wore gloves during the staged attack, and did punch Smollett, but the scratches and bruises on Smollett's face most likely were self-inflicted.

"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.

Smollett has been indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct by a Cook County grand jury.

The Empire star was back in court on Thursday for his arraignment, where he revealed his stance.

Prosecutors claim Smollett, who is black and gay, paid two brothers with whom he was acquainted, to carry out a racial and homophobic attack, hoping the incident would advance his career and secure him a higher salary on Empire.

"This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines", Geragos said.

Smollett said "not guilty" as his lawyer entered the plea. Details in some of those statements were different, the indictment says.

"Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption", the lawyer, Mark Geragos, said last week.

The indictment charges Smollett with 16 counts of disorderly conduct. He has denied all allegations against him. While there has been a lot of speculation regarding the actor's future on the show - as Empire's own future is now shrouded in mystery and facing rumors of cancellation - several episodes of the second half of Season 5 were already in the can before Smollett's legal drama unfolded.