Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to charges of lying about attack

‘Empire’ actor is accused of hiring two friends to help stage an assault in Chicago

‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett stands before Cook County Circuit Court judge Steven Watkins in Chicago, US. Photograph: E Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool

Empire actor Jussie Smollett has pleaded not guilty in a Chicago court to the charges accusing him of lying to police about being attacked in the city a few weeks ago.

The 36-year-old actor's lawyer, Tina Glandian, entered the plea on Smollett's behalf during a hearing in Cook County Circuit Court after Judge Steven Watkins was assigned to oversee the case, including the trial.

The next court date was scheduled for April 17th.

Smollett is charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct.


Prosecutors allege that the actor, who is black and gay, hired two friends to help stage an attack on him in downtown Chicago early on the morning of January 29th.

Police say Smollett told detectives that he was beaten by two masked men while they hurled racist and homophobic slurs at him, and that they poured an unknown substance on him and hung a noose around his neck before fleeing.

Smollett has denied staging the attack and maintains his innocence.

Mr Justice Watkins granted Smollett's request to be allowed to meet with lawyers in New York and California, but said the actor must give the court prior notice of at least 48 hours.

There were several supporters outside the court as Smollett arrived for the hearing, including some who waved signs. – AP