Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty in hoax assault case

Is the Jussie Smollett Case Enough to Bring Down

Judge to be assigned to Jussie Smollett case during court hearing today

Smollett is charged with lying to Chicago police about the January attack in the city's Streeterville neighborhood.

Smollett's attorney entered a not guilty plea on behalf of the 36-year-old actor, who stood next to his attorney with his hands behind his back. Smollett, who is free on bond, maintains his innocence.

"We welcome cameras in the courtroom so that the public and the media can see the actual evidence and what we believe is actually going to be the lack of evidence against Mr. Smollett".

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He appeared before his newly assigned judge, Steven Watkins, in Chicago on Thursday, days after a grand jury indicted him on 16 felony counts for allegedly lying to investigators, according to Fox News.

In a video posted to the official Empire YouTube channel on March 13, a new episode is teased, but Smollett is nowhere to be found - sans a split second out-of-focus shot. The counts in the indictment obtained by CNN say Smollett gave statements to a Chicago police officer after the incident and to a detective. Geragos continues, "This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines in order to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the outrageous leaking of false information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie's privacy in tampering with his medical records". 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.

One of Smollett's attorneys, Mark Geragos, responded to the indictment in a statement to ET.

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Smollett said "not guilty" as his lawyer entered the plea.

Several celebrities and advocacy organizations had rallied behind Smollett, expressing sympathy for him after he told "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts in mid-February that he would "never be the man that this did not happen to". They became cooperating witnesses and were released without charges.

"Empire" producers made a decision to remove Smollett's character, Jamal, from the final two episodes of the season.

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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.

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