CHICAGO (CBS) — “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty Thursday to 16 counts of disorderly conduct, nearly a week after he was indicted for allegedly lying to police about a hate crime.
Wearing sunglasses on a rainy day, Smollett arrived at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse shortly before 9 a.m., greeted by a handful of supporters holding signs reading “I Stand With Jussie” and “I Believe Jussie Smollett.”
After Smollett pleaded not guilty, Cook County Judge Steven Watkins granted him permission to travel to New York and California to consult with his attorneys, if he provides 48 hours notice to the court’s pretrial services office. Otherwise, Smollett cannot leave Illinois without the court’s permission while he is free on bail, and Watkins admonished the actor to be present and on-time for all of his upcoming court dates.
Smollett’s next hearing was scheduled for April 17.
The actor is accused of falsifying a police report, and lying to police. 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.
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.
Smollett’s attorneys have said the actor welcomes cameras in court, as a counter to “misinformation” they claim has been leaked to the media since he reported being attacked in Streeterville in January. Police and prosecutors have said that attack was a hoax, but Smollett’s attorneys said they want the public to see the evidence, or lack thereof, in the case.
“We look forward to complete transparency and the truth coming out,” attorney Tina Glandian said.
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, had told police he was attacked as he was walking home around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29. He claimed two masked men – one of them also wearing a red hat – shouted racist and homophobic slurs as they beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical on him.
Police said, in reality, Smollett had paid Ola and Abel Osundairo to stage the attack.
Former federal and state’s attorney office prosecutor Steven Block isn’t connected to the case but says Smollett’s defense could possibly strike an attack on the brothers credibilty
“If you are a defense attorney, you are thinking there could an opportunity to attack the credibility of these witnesses,” Block said.
“In this case, the prosecutors have witnesses who are not priests, rabbis, teachers or judges. They are people with their own problems and credibility problems.”
CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar has reported Smollett also directed the brothers to buy the noose at a hardware store and the hat and masks at a store in Uptown. Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson said police have the check.
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.
Police at the time said the attack was a publicity stunt because the actor was upset about his pay on the show.
Smollett has denied all the allegations.