Jussie Smollett

Empire actor Jussie Smollett, center, arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court Building for his hearing on Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Chicago. 

CHICAGO (AP) — "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges accusing him of lying to the police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in downtown Chicago a few weeks ago.

The 36-year-old actor's lawyer, Tina Glandian, entered the plea Thursday on Smollett's behalf after Judge Steven Watkins was assigned to oversee the case, including the trial. The next court date was scheduled for April 17.

Smollett is charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct.

Prosecutors allege that Smollett, who is black and gay and plays the gay character Jamal Lyon on the hit Fox TV show, hired two friends to help him stage the attack on him in downtown Chicago early on the morning of Jan. 29. They say Smollett was unhappy about his salary and wanted to drum up publicity to help his career.

Smollett has denied that he staged the attack and maintains he is innocent. His attorneys have called the charges against him "prosecutorial overkill."

There were several supporters outside the courthouse doors as Smollett arrived for the hearing, including some who waved signs. Activist Wisdom Cole led a few chants in support of the actor, the black community and the LGBT community.

"Jussie has been a person of high caliber and character. 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," she said.

———

Check out the AP's complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tags

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.