Empire actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty at his arraignment today on a 16 count indictment of lying to police after Chicago police accused him of fabricating a racist and homophobic attack on himself in January.
USA Today reports:
One of Smollett’s lawyers, Tina Glandian, entered the plea on Smollett’s behalf. Prior to the arraignment, Judge Steven G. Watkins was assigned to oversee Smollett’s case. Watkins made a small change to the terms of Smollett’s bond, saying he will allow Smollett to travel Los Angeles and New York to meet with attorneys without first formally seeking court approval. Smollett’s next court date was set for April 17.
The actor was indicted by a grand jury last week and the Daily Mail reported that he was “initially charged with one Class 4 Felony charge of disorderly conduct last month but a grand jury has applied that charge 15 times over in an 86-page indictment that was returned on Thursday. Now, he is facing a maximum sentence of 48 years behind bars and fines of up to $400,000.”
Smollett was arrested in February after police officially classified him as a suspect for allegedly filing a false police report. Smollett had claimed he was the victim of a homophobic and racist attack that occurred in January in Chicago where two men poured a chemical substance on him, put a rope around his neck and said “This is MAGA country!”
His story began to unravel shortly after the alleged incident. Chicago police have since announced that Smollett of paid two other actors $3,500 to stage the so-called attack.