Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty on Thursday to over a dozen felony charges for allegedly staging a racially-motivated attack on himself and filing a false police report. The 36-year-old Empire actor, flanked by bodyguards and family members, wore sunglasses as he entered the courtroom before his lawyers entered his plea on the 16 counts against him. Cook County Judge Steven Gregory Watkins, who was assigned to his case on Thursday, also granted the actor permission to travel to Los Angeles and New York to meet with his legal team.
This is the second time Smollett appeared before a Cook County judge this week. At a hearing on Tuesday, a judge granted a request by Smollett’s team to allow cameras in the courtroom. “There has been a lot of misinformation in this case that has been presented as fact and evidence against Mr. Smollett, which is demonstrably false,” Tina Glandian, his attorney, said this week. “We welcome cameras in the courtroom so that the public and the media can see the actual evidence and what we believe is actually going to be the lack of evidence against Mr. Smollett.” If convicted, the now former Fox actor faces a maximum of 48 years in prison. Smollett’s next court hearing in April 17.