Empire actor Jussie Smollett has pleaded not guilty to charges of filing false police reports relating to a hate crime attack.
Smollett’s lawyer Tina Glandian entered the not guilty plea at Cook County Circuit Court on Thursday (March 14).
He is facing 16 felony counts after claiming in January that he was the victim of a homophobic and racist attack.
Jussie Smollett ‘determined’ to prove innocence
Chicago police have accused him of perpetrating the attack on himself with two associates, but the gay actor continues to maintain his innocence.
The court assigned Judge Steven Watkins to oversee the case, with the first court date set for April 17.
The actor, who has been suspended from his Empire role, attended court in-person on Tuesday (March 12) “to show confidence in his innocence.”
His spokesperson Anne Kavanagh told NBC: “He will do everything he needs to do. He will go the extra mile to cooperate with the process.”
Neither Smollett’s lawyers nor prosecutors objected to cameras being allowed in court during the trial.
Glandian claimed that “demonstrably false” information was being spread about the case, adding: “We welcome cameras in the courtroom so that the public and the media can see the actual evidence and what we believe is actually going to be the lack of evidence against Mr. Smollett.
“We look forward to complete transparency and the truth coming out.”
Jussie Smollett lawyers claims star is ‘victim of media gangbang’
Another of Smollett’s legal representatives recently said the star was a victim of “media gangbang.”
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Speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper following the March 8 indictment, lawyer Mark Geragos said: “What is happening here is, frankly, a media gangbang of this guy of unprecedented proportions.
“I’ve never seen a media pendulum swing more quickly and more viciously and rob somebody of their presumption of innocence like this case has.
“It’s startling the way people assume that he’s guilty.”
Geragos attacked the “overkill” decision to file a total of 16 felony counts, which could carry a lengthy prison time, and referenced an ongoing probe within the Chicago Police Department over the leaking of false information relating to the case.
The lawyer also questioned why no charges had been brought against brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo, who claim that Smollett paid them $3,500 to fake the attack.
Records suggest that the money was in fact a personal training fee.
He said: “If you believe what the police chief is saying, they’ve got a great case against the two brothers.
“They’ve got Lyft receipts, they’ve got ATM receipts, they’ve got a surveillance video, but what do they have that corroborates the story [about Jussie]?
“What do they have, besides their word, that says he was in on this?”