Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett made an initial court appearance Monday morning on a new set of charges alleging that he lied to police about being targeted in a racist and homophobic attack in downtown Chicago early last year.
Smollett, 37, pleaded not guilty to the six counts of felony disorderly conduct during Monday’s hearing, the Chicago Tribune reported.
He had pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of the charge in the same courthouse last year, just weeks before the Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office abruptly announced it was dismissing the case, angering police and City Hall.
Special Prosecutor Dan Webb, a former U.S. attorney who was appointed to examine the state’s attorney’s office’s handling of the case, was expected to attend. Foxx’s office is not involved in the new case against Smollett.
Smollett, who has denied police allegations that he staged the attack to get attention and further his career, appeared before Judge James Linn, the Tribune reported.
#JussieSmollett lawyer’s try to get the case against him dismissed. Judge Linn denies it. Smollett’s lawyers enter a plea of “not guilty”.
— Rafer Weigel (@RaferWeigel) February 24, 2020
“Linn did not delay the proceedings and instead set a $20,000 individual bond, releasing Smollett on his own recognizance, and ordered him to return to court March 18,” the report said.
The actor, who is black and gay, told police that two masked men attacked him as he was walking home in the early hours of Jan. 29, 2019.
He said they made racist and homophobic insults, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing, and that at least one of his attackers was a white man who told him he was in “MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Weeks later, police alleged the incident was a hoax staged by Smollett to bolster his acting career.
They said Smollett had paid two black friends — brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo — to help stage the attack.
The Osundairos appeared in court Monday, the Tribune reported.
Jussie Smollett walks back into criminal court. pic.twitter.com/UIG4xfwjHv
— Matt Finn (@MattFinnFNC) February 24, 2020
Smollett has maintained his innocence, telling reporters after the charges were dropped last year that, “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I was accused of.”
His attorney, Tina Glandian, questioned the integrity of special prosecutor’s investigation after the new charges were announced this month, pointing out that Webb’s probe relied on the same detectives who were part of the original investigation despite pending civil claims that Smollett is pursuing against the city and police for malicious prosecution.
Foxx’s handling of the case, meanwhile, has become a key issue in her bid for re-election, with her opponents accusing her of having acted haphazardly and indecisively.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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