Actor Jussie Smollett appeared in a Chicago courtroom Thursday morning to officially plead ‘not guilty’ to 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct.
The charges stem from his claim that on January 29, during a late-night food run, he was assaulted by two men who physically beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured an unidentified liquid on his head. Smollett alleges his assailants used homophobic and racist slurs during the attack.
The Chicago Police Department were able to track down the two men – brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo – via surveillance cameras. The two men told police they were paid by Smollett to stage the incident in an effort by Smollett to increase his salary on Empire.
On March 9, a grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for filing false police reports.
Since the scandal has escalated and charges were filed against him, the TV show has written Smollett's character out of the remaining episodes this season.
His attorney, Tina Glandian, entered the plea during the brief hearing at Leighton Criminal Courthouse, according to Chicago’s local CBS2 News.
Following the plea, Cook County Judge Steven Watkins ruled that Smollett may travel to California and New York for consultations with his lawyers as long he provides the court with 48 hours notice.
Otherwise, the 36-year-old will not be allowed to leave the state of Illinois without prior permission from the court.
The presiding Criminal Court Judge allowed cameras in the courtroom today, but Judge Watkins will have the final say as to whether future hearings will be open to media cameras.
Smollett has indicated through his lawyers that he wants the cameras in the court as a balance to what he says are ‘misinformation’ leaks. His attorneys say they want the public to see evidence as it is presented in court.
During a recent appearance on CNN with Anderson Cooper, Smollett’s defense attorney Mark Geragos claimed the Empire star has been the victim of a ‘media gang bang.’
“What is happening here is, frankly, a media gang bang of this guy of unprecedented proportions,” said the celebrity lawyer who has previously represented Michael Jackson, Winona Ryder and Scott Peterson.
He added later, “I defy anybody to find any indictment anywhere where somebody has brought 16 counts for being a victim of a hate crime.”
Smollett’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 17. Watch Geragos’s appearance on CNN below.