Almost a month and a half after Jussie Smollett claimed he was brutally assaulted in the streets of Chicago, theEmpire actor appeared in court today to enter a plea to multiple charges of having given a false account to the police.
Actor Jussie Smollett (C) and team arrive for a court hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on March 12, 2019 in Chicago.
Watkins granted Smollett's request to be allowed to leave the state meet with his lawyers in NY and California, but said the actor must give the court at least 48 hours' prior notice.
We'll continue to keep you updated as we're sure we'll be hearing more about the case ahead of his upcoming April court date.
Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 felony counts Thursday morning in Cook County, Illinois, the Associated Press reported. The charges all are Class 4 felonies, the lowest category of felony offense under IL law.
The 36-year-old actor was charged with 16 felony counts last week for allegedly masterminding a false attack to gain publicity and win a bigger paycheck.
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Police said the two brothers wore gloves during the staged attack, and did punch Smollett, but the scratches and bruises on Smollett's face most likely were self-inflicted.
The Jussie Smollett case has brought doubts over the future of Empire, which has yet to be renewed for a sixth season. His attorneys say they want the public to see the evidence, or lack thereof, in the case.
The star's absence comes after he was arrested last month for staging an attack against himself, according to Chicago Police.
One of Smollett's attorneys, Mark Geragos, responded to the indictment in a statement to ET. Despite a flood of personal texts and other evidence that prosecutors presented in that late February hearing, Smollett has always insisted on his innocence and that he did not stage the attack. He claimed two masked men - one of them also wearing a red hat - shouted racist and homophobic slurs as they beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical on him.
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.
Smollett has denied any involvement in orchestrating an attack.