"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty Thursday to 16 counts of disorderly conduct, almost a week after he was indicted for allegedly lying to police about a hate crime. Police initially investigated the case as a possible hate crime.
Smollett maintains his innocence. Allegations against Mr. Smollett are shameful and if proven, they are an affront to the people of Chicago who embraced him as a neighbor & respected him as a role model.
- Smollett tells police he was attacked by two masked men in downtown Chicago while walking home from a Subway sandwich shop at 2 a.m.
Smollett was arrested by Chicago police shortly after claiming that he was beaten up in a racist and homophobic attack, as they suspected that he faked the attack "to promote his career".
"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, according to the Associated Press.
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- Smollett, who is also an R&B singer, gives a concert in West Hollywood, California, opening with an emotional speech in which he said he had to play the show because he couldn't let his attackers win.
Chicago Police have opened an internal investigation into media leaks in the case, something Smollett's legal team will likely use in court. "Jussie has been a person of high calibre and character". They became cooperating witnesses and were released without charges. Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that the two men implicated Smollett while under police interrogation, and that authorities had the check Smollett wrote them in payment to prove it.
The 36-year-old actor was charged with 16 felony counts last week for allegedly masterminding a false attack to gain publicity and win a bigger paycheck.
Smollett was initially charged with one count of lying to the authorities on February 20.
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.