Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty in Chicago court
American actor is accused of lying to police about being the victim of racist and homophobic attack
Empire actor Jussie Smollett, 36, has pleaded not guilty to charges he lied to police about being attacked in downtown Chicago a few weeks ago.
The actor's lawyer, Tina Glandian, entered the plea Thursday on Smollett's behalf after Judge Steven Watkins was assigned to oversee the case, including a trial.
Watkins granted Smollett's request to be allowed to meet with lawyers in New York and California, but said the actor must give the court at least 48 hours' notice.
Smollett, who left the courthouse without speaking to reporters, is charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct.
The next court date has been set for April 17.
Smollett is black and gay, and plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox TV show. It's alleged he hired two friends to help him stage the attack on him in downtown Chicago early the morning of Jan. 29, and Smollett was unhappy about his salary and wanted to drum up publicity to help his career.
Smollett has denied he staged the attack and maintains he is innocent. His lawyers have called the charges "prosecutorial overkill."
There were several supporters outside the courthouse doors as Smollett arrived for the hearing, including some waving signs.
Activist Wisdom Cole led a few chants in support of the actor, the black community and the LGBTQ community.
"Jussie has been a person of high calibre and character," Cole said. "He comes from an activist family. He has a consistent track record and history of supporting marginalized people … and so his track record is not on par with the idea of a hoax."