Jussie Smollett Enters Not Guilty Plea

Jussie Smollett Not Guilty Plea

Empire star Jussie Smollett appeared in court on Thursday, where he entered a not guilty plea in his ongoing disorderly conduct case, Deadline reports.

The plea comes less than one week after a Chicago grand jury indicted the embattled actor on 16 felony counts in relation to the actor’s alleged staging of a hate crime against himself in January. Smollett is next scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, April 17.

Smollett reportedly told police that two men approached him and began hurling racist and homophobic slurs at him. According to the original account, the two men beat Smollett, placed a noose around his neck and doused him with a chemical substance (believed to be bleach), then fled. Smollett also told police that the assailants “yelled pro-‘Make America Great Again’ [MAGA] comments” during the attack.

Later developments cast doubt on Smollett’s account, including the questioning of two suspects — a pair of Nigerian brothers, one of whom worked as a personal trainer on a music video of Smollett’s — who were later released without being charged. Smollett’s lawyers have insisted that the actor played no role in his attack.

He was charged in February with one count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. He was arrested on Feb. 21; in the press conference that followed, Chicago Police alleged that Smollett staged the attack in order to gain a larger salary at the Fox drama. Smollett was written out of the final two episodes of Empire‘s fifth season in response to his legal troubles; the show is mulling the idea of recasting his character, Jamal.