Jussie Smollett has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying to the police over an alleged racist and homophobic attack he claimed to be victim of back in January.
The actor, who is best known for his work on Empire, was charged by a grand jury with 16 counts of disorderly conduct last week. The charges follow his arrest last month for filing a false police report after he was accused of staging his own attack on January 29 in Chicago.
Smollett appeared at Cook county circuit court today (March 14) for a hearing where his lawyer Tina Glandian entered a not guilty plea on behalf of the 36-year-old actor. Judge Steven Watkins has been appointed to preside over the case, including Smollett’s future trial.
Judge Watkins scheduled the next hearing for April 19, and he granted Smollett’s request to meet with his lawyers in both New York and California ahead of that date – although the actor must give the court 48 hours notice before doing so.
Prosecutors allege that Smollett set up the attack (including the accusation that he hired two friends to pose as his assailants) because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on Empire and wanted to further his career.
Smollett has denied those allegations and has maintained his innocence throughout, while his lawyers have labelled the charges against him “prosecutorial overkill” and say that they’ll “mount an aggressive defence” of their client.
Following the allegations, Smollett was removed last month from the final two episodes of the current season of Empire.