'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty

Carla Harmon
March 14, 2019

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett has plead not guilty to multiple charges of disorderly conduct.

Earlier this morning, trial Judge Steven Watkins was assigned to the case and to conduct this morning's arraignment.


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. According to a tweet from Chicago's CBS affiliate, Smollett will be allowed to travel to NY and Los Angeles without asking the court permission as he awaits trial.

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 January 29.


The "Empire" actor, 36, will be arraigned before a judge and enter a formal plea. 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.

Smollett, who is accused of staging an attack against himself that he blamed on two homophobic, racist Trump supporters, and then lying about it to police, appeared in court yesterday as his lawyer, Tina Glandian, argued in favor of allowing cameras in the court room. Chicago police say the money was for the staged attack, while Smollett claims it was for a five-week nutrition and workout program, as noted in the check's memo.


In court today, the actor has been given a new set of travel restrictions, being allowed to travel freely between NY and Los Angeles to meet with his lawyers. It was unclear Thursday if cameras had been allowed inside the courtroom. Smollett has maintained his innocence, and one of his lawyers called the 16-count indictment "redundant and vindictive" in a statement to The Washington Post. That is not a point that prosecutors seem to have pursued in their case and one that various sources at Fox and others close to Smollett have scoffed at.

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