‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to lying about Chicago attack

Jussie Smollett 1

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett is expected to plead not guilty Thursday to charges accusing him of lying to the police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in downtown Chicago a few weeks ago. Each of the 16 counts against him covers various alleged acts that Smollett falsely described to the officers-including that he was hit by two men, that they yelled racial and homophobic slurs and poured a chemical on him.

Smollett will next be due in court on April 17.

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.

Smollett, who is black and openly gay, had told police he was attacked as he was walking home around 2 a.m. on January 29.

After Smollett was arrested on February 21, Chicago prosecutors read out in court a lengthy series of text messages between Smollett and brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo that painted a picture of a clearly pre-planned attack. Prosecutors said one had supplied Smollett with "designer drugs" in the past.

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Actor Jussie Smollett denies lying to police and faking a hate crime attack; Matt Finn reports from Chicago. His attorneys have called the charges against him "prosecutorial overkill". Soon after the alleged incident was made public, police confirmed that the FBI would be assisting in the investigation and that Smollett had earlier received a threatening letter at the Chicago studio where the Fox drama is filmed.

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.

In court today, the actor has been given a new set of travel restrictions, being allowed to travel freely between NY and Los Angeles to meet with his lawyers.

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

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