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'Empire' actor Smollett pleads not guilty to lying about Chicago attack

14 March 2019

His next court date is April 17. Some of his relatives sat in the court's overflow gallery near a handful of fans, some wearing "Empire" shirts.

Smollett is charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct. Last week, a grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts of lying to authorities - eight counts from what he told the officer who responded to the report of the attack and eight from what he later told a detective about being the victim of a brutal racist and homophobic beating by two masked men in downtown Chicago back in January. If convicted, the "Empire" star could face three years in prison, though it is also possible he would be sentenced to probation.

Actor Jussie Smollett leaves the Leighton Criminal Court Building after attending a hearing on whether cameras will be allowed in future proceedings of his trial in Chicago, Illinois, March 12, 2019. That is not a point that prosecutors seem to have pursued in their case and one that various sources at Fox and others close to Smollett have scoffed at.

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An attorney for the Osundairo brothers, Abimbola "Abel" and Olabinjo "Ola", has said a $3500 check the actor gave the brothers was for both personal training and to stage an attack. They say Smollett was unhappy about his salary and wanted to drum up publicity to help his career. He said at least one of them had invoked President Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan by yelling "This is MAGA country" during the attack. After being picked up by police, the brothers confessed their involvement and became cooperating witnesses. Smollett chose to appear at a brief hearing at Cook County criminal court earlier this week, during which Judge LeRoy Martin reportedly ruled to allow cameras in the courtroom on Thursday but clarified that a trial judge would make the final decision.

There were several supporters outside the courthouse doors as Smollett arrived for the hearing, including some who waved signs.

In a "Good Morning America" interview last month, Smollett said he was angry some people questioned his story and suggested racial bias may be behind the disbelief.

'Empire' actor Smollett pleads not guilty to lying about Chicago attack