'Empire' actor expected to plead not guilty at hearing

Is the Jussie Smollett Case Enough to Bring Down

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty in an IL courtroom on Thursday to disorderly conduct charges over allegations he staged a hate crime and lied to police.

The hearing in Cook County Circuit Court began with Judge Steven Watkins being assigned to oversee the case, including the trial, if it reaches that point.

After Smollett pleaded not guilty, Cook County Judge Steven Watkins granted him permission to travel to NY and California to consult with his attorneys, if he provides 48 hours notice to the court's pretrial services office. On Friday, a grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct - one for each supposed lie he told police - for allegedly staging his own hate crime.

The judge will then likely ask Smollett to enter a plea. The next time he is due in court is April 17.

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 on felony charges, in Chicago, March 12.

Osundairo brothers claim Jussie paid them
Ola and Abel Osundairo claim they were paid by Jussie Smollett to pull off the alleged attack. Instagram

Police say Smollett, who is black and gay, staged the January 29 incident because he was unhappy with his salary on the Fox show and wanted to promote his career. Prosecutors claimed during a hearing that same day that Smollett had paid two brothers - Abimbola "Abel" Osundairo, who played Jamal's love interest on the Fox drama, and Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo, an extra - to stage the attack.

Smollett, who is free on bond, maintains his innocence.

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.

In a statement, Smollett's attorney Mark Geragos said while the indictment was "not unexpected". It was unclear Thursday if cameras had been allowed inside the courtroom.

Outside the courthouse on Thursday, about a dozen supporters gathered with signs, chanting that his prosecution was unjust. 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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