Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to disorderly conduct charges in arraignment Thursday

ByJessica D'Onofrio, Leah Hope via WLS logo
Thursday, March 14, 2019
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Actor Jussie Smollett returned to court in Chicago Thursday and entered in a not guilty plea to more than a dozen felony counts.

CHICAGO -- Actor Jussie Smollett returned to court in Chicago Thursday and entered a not guilty plea to more than a dozen felony counts.

Smollett's defense team waived a formal reading of the indictment and his attorney entered the not guilty plea on his behalf in front of a packed courtroom.

WATCH: Jussie Smollett enters not guilty plea

The TV actor on the show "Empire" arrived his 9 a.m. arraignment at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse with his attorney, siblings, and two friends he worked with on the show. Cameras were allowed inside as a judge assigned Judge Steven Watkins to his case.

Judge Watkins will decide whether to continue to allow cameras in the courtroom at a later date. Smollett's next court date is set for April 17.

Smollett faces 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. He claims he was the victim of a vicious hate crime in the Streeterville neighborhood back in January, but police say it was a hoax and that Smollett hired two brothers to carry out the fake attack.

RAW VIDEO: Jussie Smollett arrives at Chicago courthouse Thursday

Police said they have evidence to prove that he did it because he wasn't satisfied with his salary on the show, but attorneys for Smollett say there has been a lot of misinformation in this case and Smollett is innocent. However, after court Thursday, they decided not to make a statement.

Smollett's attorney requested he be allowed to travel to meet with his attorneys in New York and California. The request was granted with the requirement that he notify the court of travel and be back for legal proceedings.

Smollett is represented by Los Angeles-based attorney Mark Geragos, as well as local Chicago attorney Ron Safer. Geragos specializes in white collar crime.

RELATED: Brothers 'taken advantage of' by Smollett, attorney says

A handful of supporters and fans were outside of the building Thursday morning. They held signs and wore shirts saying "I love you Jussie."

ABC7 has learned that following the reported attack, Smollett was asked to be part of this year's Grammy Awards, either as presenter or to perform with host Alicia Keys.

Grammy producer Chantal Sausedo said Smollett declined, with a response from his publicist that "He would love to be at the Grammys as a champion for the people but he is just not ready."

RELATED: Cook Co. State's Attorney Kim Foxx recuses herself from Jussie Smollett investigation

Meanwhile, text messages obtained by ABC7 Eyewitness News offer new insight into why Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the case.

The texts show the Smollett family was worried about leaks in the investigation and contacted Foxx through a politically connected lawyer.

CLICK HERE to read the full indictment

The family wanted Foxx to ask Chicago police to turn the case over to the FBI.

RELATED: Brothers told police Smollett was upset threatening letter didn't get enough attention, staged attack

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Chicago Police Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said, "the FBI was working on that investigation from day one. There was never a point where the FBI could take the entire investigation on because there was no evidence produced to support Smollett's claim of a hate crime."

Smollett was originally charged with one felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office on Feb. 20. Smollett pleaded not guilty to that charge.

RELATED: Brothers told police Smollett was upset threatening letter didn't get enough attention, staged attack

The TV actor claimed he was the victim of a vicious hate crime in the Streeterville neighborhood on Jan. 29. He said two men physically attacked him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs, threw a chemical liquid on him and looped a rope around his neck.

Two days after the alleged attack, Chicago police released surveillance images of two people they said they considered persons of interest in the attack.

RELATED: Jussie Smollett charged with disorderly conduct for filing false police report, prosecutors say

But the investigation turned on Smollett. He's now accused of allegedly orchestrating the attack with the Osundairo brothers, who he knew. One brother was an extra on "Empire" and the other was Smollett's personal trainer.

Prosecutors say Smollett paid the Osundairo brothers to pull off the staged attack.

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