Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty to a 16 count indictment for allegedly lying to authorities about a staged hate crime in court on Thursday (March 14). According to USA Today, the actor’s legal team requested on Tuesday (March 12) that cameras be present during court so that the public could see the alleged evidence proving the 36-year-old’s innocence.
Celebrity attorney Mark Geragos joined Smollett’s defense team in February and argues that all the media coverage surrounding his client’s alleged hoax has created a tarnished image of his persona.
“What is unexpected, however, is the prosecutorial overkill in charging 16 separate counts against Jussie,” Geragos stated 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 and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie’s privacy in tampering with his medical records.”
Another lawyer assigned to Jussie’s case, Tina Glandian, reportedly filed the non-guilty plea on his behalf.
Before his plea occurred, Judge Steven G. Watkins was assigned to his case. Watkins slightly changed some of the stipulations to the court mandates once Jussie was released on bond. He allowed the Empire star to travel to New York and Los Angeles to meet with his attorneys without having to get court approval.
Smollett was allegedly attacked in Jan. 2019 by two men wearing black ski masks. He alleged that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime by two MAGA supporters. Since then, many discrepancies on the case have surfaced which have led the Chicago Police Department to question whether or not, the incident is true.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson held a press conference last month, in which he furiously denounced Smollett’s alleged lie, stating the actor used his racial identity to his advantage to bring attention to himself and lie about the whole ordeal
“I am left hanging my head asking ‘why?’ Why would anyone – especially an African-American man – use the symbolism of a noose to make false accusations,” Johnson said. “Bogus police reports cause real harm. They do harm to every legitimate victim who is in need of support by police and investigators as well as the citizens of this city … I’m offended by what happened and I am also angry.”
Smollet is due back in court on April 17, 2019.