Judge will allow cameras in court for Jussie Smollett’s next appearance
Actor Jussie Smollett denies lying to police and faking a hate crime attack; Matt Finn reports from Chicago.
"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty in a Chicago courtroom Thursday on 16 charges stemming from an alleged hate crime hoax.
Smollett's lawyer Tina Glandian, entered the plea on Smollett’s behalf just hours after Judge Steven Watkins was assigned the high-profile case. The next court date was scheduled for April 17.
Smollett was initially charged with one count of lying to the authorities on Feb. 20. Last week, a grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts of lying to authorities – eight counts from what he told the officer who responded to the report of the attack and eight from what he later told a detective about being the victim of a brutal racist and homophobic beating by two masked men in downtown Chicago back in January.
JUSSIE SMOLLETT'S ALLEGED CHICAGO ATTACK DETAILS UNFOLD: A TIMELINE OF EVENTS
Empire actor Jussie Smollett, center, arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court Building for his hearing on Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Chicago.
Police say Smollett, who is black and gay, staged the Jan. 29 incident because he was unhappy with his salary on the Fox show and wanted to promote his career.
Smollett's attorney Mark Geragos called the charges "prosecutorial overkill" in a statement last week.
The 36-year-old actor, who is free on $100,000 bond, has vehemently denied the allegations.
SMOLLETT'S 'EMPIRE' DAD TERRENCE HOWARD BREAKS SILENCE, DOUBLES DOWN ON SUPPORT
A week before the alleged attack, Smollett told authorities he received a threatening letter at work. Chicago police pushed back and accused Smollett of faking the letter as well.
Federal authorities are conducting a separate investigation into that letter.
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Smollett’s “Empire” father Terrance Howard was in the courthouse on Thursday to show support for his TV son. Two weeks ago, when other actors were distancing themselves from Smollett, Howard lashed back angrily at social media users. He also shared a video on Instagram of Smollett playing with his son, Hero, on a private plane.
Fox News’ Matt Finn contributed to this report.
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