Jussie Smollett Enters Plea in Alleged Hate Crime Hoax

Jussie Smollett was arraigned in Chicago on Thursday, March 14, 2019. (Credit: YouTube/CBS News)

Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty Thursday to 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct, for allegedly lying to Chicago police about being attacked.

The actor walked into a Chicago courthouse surrounded by members of his legal team and supporters.

One of his attorneys entered Smollett’s plea during the arraignment as the Empire actor stood silently.

Last week, a grand jury indicted the actor for allegedly lying to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. The actor’s legal reps have called the charges against him “prosecutorial overkill.”

“What is unexpected, however, is the prosecutorial overkill in charging 16 separate counts against Jussie,” Los Angeles-based attorney Mark Geragos said in a statement last week. “This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines in order to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the outrageous leaking of false information by the Chicago Police Department.”

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On Jan. 29,  Smollett told officers he was assaulted by two masked men while walking home from a Subway sandwich shop around 2 a.m. Prosecutors later accused the actor of orchestrating the attack to get attention.

Smollett surrendered to police on Feb. 21, and was released later that day after posting $100,000 bail.

On Monday, the attorney for the two brothers who admitted taking part in the attack accused the actor of duping her clients.

“My clients were just taken advantage of by someone they trusted,” Gloria Schmidt, who represents brothers Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, said during an interview on Good Morning America.

“They worked with Jussie, they’ve known him, they were friends with him. This was someone who the brothers thought could help their career. Obviously Mr. Smollett has connections,” Schmidt told George Stephanopoulos. “This later turned out to be a big betrayal.”

Despite the allegations from Schmidt and Chicago prosecutors, Smollett has maintained his innocence and his attorneys have vowed to mount a vigorous defense. The actor’s next court date is set for April 17.

You can watch video from the hearing below.