Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to hate attack hoax charges

Actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty in court Thursday to accusations that he staged a hate crime and filed a false police report

"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.

After Smollett pleaded not guilty, Cook County Judge Steven Watkins granted him permission to travel to NY and California to consult with his attorneys, if he provides 48 hours notice to the court's pretrial services office.

Smollett is due back in front of a judge for a hearing on April. 17.

Chicago Police have opened an internal investigation into media leaks in the case, something Smollett's legal team will likely use in court.

In a statement, Smollett's attorney Mark Geragos said while the indictment was "not unexpected". "We welcome cameras in the courtroom so that members of the media can see the actual evidence - and what we feel is actually going to be a lack of evidence - against Mr. Smollett". A source told ET at the time that Smollett chose to come to court on Tuesday - though he wasn't required to - because he wanted to be as transparent as possible, and that he looks forward to the evidence being presented in court.

Prosecutors claim Smollett, who is black and gay, paid two brothers with whom he was acquainted, to carry out a racial and homophobic attack, hoping the incident would advance his career and secure him a higher salary on Empire.

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Smollett has been indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct by a Cook County grand jury.

Smollett is accused of staging an attack on himself on January 29. The men were released without being charged.

There were several supporters outside the courthouse doors as Smollett arrived for the hearing, including some who waved signs. "What is unexpected, however, is the prosecutorial overkill in charging 16 separate counts".

Smollett has denied any involvement in orchestrating an attack.

The subsection of the IL law states: "A person commits disorderly conduct when he or she knowingly". But the Fox drama's executive producers said in a statement last month that the actor's character would be removed from this season's final two episodes "to avoid further disruption on set".

"Jussie Smollett knew that at the time of this transmission there was no reasonable ground for believing that such offenses had been committed", the indictment states.

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