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‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to staging hate crime

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March 14 (UPI) — Actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that say he staged a hate crime against himself and filed a fake police report in a bid to gain attention.

The Empire actor made the plea in Chicago court Thursday morning. He is is free on $100,000 bond and denies lying to police and faking the attack. Defense attorneys said the multiple counts are “redundant and vindictive.”

A grand jury indicted Smollett last week on 16 counts of disorderly conduct related to a Jan. 29 incident in which the 36-year-old told police he was attacked by men who used racial and homophobic slurs in his Streeterville neighborhood in Chicago. At one point, Smollett, who is openly gay, said the men yelled, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump‘s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

Police investigated the crime and later said Smollett paid two brothers $3,500 to stage the assault.

Cameras were allowed in the courtroom when Judge Steven Watkins was assigned the case but it’s up to the judge whether cameras will be allowed for the trial itself.

“In light of the substantial amount of misinformation in the case, the defense actually welcomes cameras in the courtroom,” Smollett attorney Tina Glandian said.

Smollett’s next court date is April 17. He will be allowed to travel to New York and California to meet with lawyers, as long as he notifies the court 48 hours ahead of time.





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