"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty in a Chicago courtroom Thursday on 16 charges stemming from an alleged hate crime hoax. But the tide began to turn just days later, when police announced that the trajectory of the investigation had changed, and that Smollett would be treated as a suspect.
Smollett has denied staging the attack and maintains his innocence.
Smollett remained silent as he entered the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago wearing a suit and sunglasses. When Watkins warned him to show up on time for each future court hearing or risk jail time, Smollett replied, "Yes, your honor".
Smollett's arraignment hearing followed the midseason premiere of "Empire", which resumed Wednesday.
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. Smollett, who is black and gay, claimed his alleged attackers used racial and homophobic slurs, hung a rope around his neck and tossed bleach on him before fleeing. Smollett, who is free on bond, maintains his innocence.
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"Meanwhile, following the news of his indictment, Chief Communications Officer of the Chicago Police Department Anthony Guglielmi tweeted: ".
Chicago Police have opened an internal investigation into media leaks in the case, something Smollett's legal team will likely use in court.
Not surprisingly, Smollett's first episode back had a lot of strong reaction on Twitter, with many admitting that it was hard to watch Smollett play his character Jamal without thinking about his real-life legal troubles. The men were released without being charged.
- Police say Smollett turned himself in to face a felony charge of disorderly conduct, which could bring up to three years in prison. A decision on whether he will remain with the show beyond that has not been made.
Prosecutors claimed during a hearing that same day that Smollett had paid two brothers - Abimbola "Abel" Osundairo, who worked as a stand-in on the Fox drama, and Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo, an extra - to stage the attack. First charged and arrested on February 21 over the seemingly violent January 29 incident that Chicago PD initially considered a "potential hate crime", Smollett was indicted on the more than a dozen new charges on March 8. They say Smollett was unhappy about his salary and wanted to drum up publicity to help his career.