As Jussie Smollett sat in a holding area at Chicago’s Leighton Criminal Courthouse, waiting to appear before a judge for the second time for allegedly staging a hate crime against himself, he met at least one friendly fan. “Jussie Smollett!” an elderly woman reportedly shouted. “Man, you [are] good in Empire.” While the gaggle of reporters and others who had gathered around him chuckled, Smollett smiled.
Smollett has pleaded not guilty once again, but unlike last time—when Smollett paid $10,000 bail to secure his release to await trial—the actor was released on his own recognizance. As Cook County Judge Jason Linn put it, “I don’t find you to be a flight risk.” Smollett’s next court date will be March 18, and Linn encouraged the former Empire actor to attend. His attorneys, meanwhile, have filed a motion to get the case dismissed.
News of the alleged racist, homophobic attack first broke in January 2019. Smollett claimed that two men had placed a noose around his neck, doused him in an unknown chemical, and yelled, “This is MAGA country!” But it didn’t take long for Chicago police to turn their suspicions toward Smollett himself, and last February he was indicted as prosecutors and police alleged he had paid two Nigerian-born brothers to help him stage the attack.
Smollett pleaded not guilty at the time, and in late March prosecutors suddenly dropped all charges against him. This February, however, he was indicted again—this time on six counts of disorderly conduct.
Last summer Empire creator Lee Daniels confirmed Smollett would be dismissed from the show, and despite calls from the cast for Smollett’s return, his character, Jamal Lyons, was written off the drama last fall.