Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to charges he lied about alleged attack

Joann Johnston
March 14, 2019

The hearing in Cook County Circuit Court began with Judge Steven Watkins being assigned to oversee the case, including the trial, if it reaches that point.

Smollett's next hearing was scheduled for April 17.

A grand jury in Chicago indicted him on 16 felony counts, which his lawyers have called "prosecutorial overkill". Each count carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $25,000 fine.

Smollett and his lawyers declined to comment as they left the courthouse.

In February, Smollett was charged with a felony of disorderly conduct and was released on $100,000 bail.

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Man's phone protects him from being shot with arrow
When the unnamed man raised his iPhone to photograph the attacker, he fired an arrow at him that pierced right through the device. A police statement said the visitor, who was known to the victim, engaged his bow and allegedly fired the arrow.

The actor unexpectedly showed up at a procedural hearing on March 12 for his California-based primary defense lawyer Mark Geragos to enter the necessary paperwork to represent Smollett in the state of IL.

Detectives investigated the incident as a hate crime but local news outlets cited police sources saying it was believed to be a hoax. Prosecutors claimed during a hearing that same day that Smollett had paid two brothers - Abimbola "Abel" Osundairo, who played Jamal's love interest on the Fox drama, and Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo, an extra - to stage the attack.

Fox cut Smollett's character in "Empire" after he was arrested. They say Smollett was unhappy about his salary and wanted to drum up publicity to help his career. One had appeared with Smollett on "Empire", police and their lawyer said. He said at least one of them had invoked President Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan by yelling "This is MAGA country" during the attack.

The brothers confessed to the plot, police said.

Judge Watkins approved a request from Smollett's lawyers that the actor be allowed to travel freely to NY and California to consult with his bicoastal legal teams. Several people could be heard chanting "We are here today to support black people", "We are here today to support LGBTQ people" and "Justice for Jussie" as the actor arrived and walked into the building wearing a dark gray coat and sunglasses. But within a month, the story appeared to unravel.

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