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Jussie Smollett appears in court

Jussie Smollett appears in court

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

The hearing in Cook County Circuit Court began with Judge Steven Watkins being assigned to oversee the case, including the trial, if it reaches that point.

His lawyer, Tina Glandian, entered the plea on Smollett's behalf, according to the AP. On Friday, a grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct - one for each supposed lie he told police - for allegedly staging his own hate crime. The next court date was scheduled for April 17.

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.

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.

Prosecutors allege Smollett, who is black and gay, staged the attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted to promote his career. Far from the racist and homophobic assault Smollett first describes in late January, the texts detailed preparing money to buy supplies, buying drugs, setting up meetings and ensuring that MAGA hats and chants were part of the assault.

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Police and prosecutors have said that Smollett hired two brothers to stage the attack.

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.

Smollett will be allowed to travel to NY and California to meet with his lawyers as long as he notifies the court 48 hours ahead of time. The actor's attorney Mark Geragos called the indictment "vindictive" and "prosecutorial overkill". It was unclear Thursday if cameras had been allowed inside the courtroom.

Smollett's arraignment hearing followed the midseason premiere of "Empire", which resumed Wednesday.

Smollett arrived at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse shortly before 9 a.m., greeted by a handful of supporters holding signs reading "I Stand With Jussie" and "I Believe Jussie Smollett".

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