"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty Thursday to 16 counts of disorderly conduct, almost a week after he was indicted for allegedly lying to police about a hate crime.
Smollett, who is accused of staging an attack against himself that he blamed on two homophobic, racist Trump supporters, and then lying about it to police, appeared in court yesterday as his lawyer, Tina Glandian, argued in favor of allowing cameras in the court room. The next court date was scheduled for April 17.
Smollett was initially charged with one count of lying to the authorities on February 20.
Smollett, who is black and openly gay, had told police he was attacked as he was walking home around 2 a.m. on January 29.
Watkins granted Smollett's request to be allowed to meet with lawyers in NY and California, but said the actor must give the court at least 48 hours' prior notice.
Prosecutors allege Smollett, who is black and gay, staged the attack because he was unhappy with his salary and wanted to promote his career.
Smollett's attorney Mark Geragos called the charges "prosecutorial overkill" in a statement last week. Otherwise, Smollett can not leave IL without the court's permission while he is free on bail, and Watkins admonished the actor to be present an on-time for all of his upcoming court dates.
A week before the alleged attack, Smollett told authorities he received a threatening letter at work.
"Jussie has been a person of high caliber and character. He has a consistent track record and history of supporting marginalized people. and so his track record is not on par with the idea of a hoax", she said.