Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to 16 counts of lying to police
Smollett, 36, was flanked by body guards and some members of his family He wore sunglasses as he entered the court but said nothing to his fans Some chanted 'Justice for Jussie' as he strode into the courthouse in silenceA new judge was assigned before Smollett made his plea on 16 felony counts It has also emerged that in the hours after the attack, his famous family enlisted Tina Tchen to help them try to steer the investigation Tchen contacted State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx and asked her to get the Chicago PD to give the investigation to the policeThey were worried about the amount of information that was being leaked to the press within hours of the incidentFoxx later recused herself over her contact with Tchen and some of Smollett's relatives who she was texting and promising to keep updated The case did not go to the FBI in the end because there was not enough proof Smollett was a hate crime victim as he claimed
Jussie Smollett has pleaded not guilty to 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police about being attacked and will now stand trial.
The 36-year-old actor will return to court in April and will be allowed to travel between New York City and Los Angeles to meet with lawyers.
He was accompanied by some but not all of his family and said nothing as he strode quickly into the courthouse wearing a pair of sunglasses.
He was searched by security before entering the courtroom. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 48 years behind bars.
Smollett, who insists he is innocent, is accused of paying brothers Abel and Ola Osundairo to attack him on January 29. They told police the actor wanted a raise on Empire, the Fox show in which he is one of the central characters.
On Thursday, he spoke only to say 'not guilty' when his lawyer entered his plea on his behalf, joining in with her mid-sentence, and to answer 'yes sir' as Judge Steven Gregory Watkins told him he had to show up to every day of the trial.
After pleading not guilty on all counts, Smollett left the court with his family without making a statement.
He was heckled on his way out of the courthouse as he got into a waiting car by someone shouting: 'You f***d up! Lock him up!'
On Thursday, Tina Glandian, one of his attorneys said they 'welcomed' the case being open to the public and media.
'We welcome cameras in the courtroom so the public and the media can see the evidence and we believe is a lack of evidence against Mr. Smollett and we look forward to complete transparency and the truth coming out,' she said.
The judge granted Smollett permission to travel to California and New York, where his legal team has offices, to meet with them but said he must notify pre-trial services 48 hours before and 24 hours after he returns from any trips.
Glandian was accompanied by two other lawyers from Mark Geragos' firm. Geragos is a celebrity favorite who has represented Chris Brown and Michael Jackson in the past.
He has spoken publicly since Smollett's indictment to claim he is the victim of a prejudiced media and police department.
The police department insists its investigation has been above board.
Members of Smollett's team told the media at the courthouse that his Empire co-star Terrence Howard had planned to attend the arraignment but that his flight was delayed arriving in Chicago.
They said he would likely attend later sessions.
Smollett's court appearance coincided with the revelation that his family contacted former Michelle Obama aide Tina Tchen to get in touch with State's Attorney Kimberly Foxx the day after the attack to tell her they had 'concerns' with how the police were handling it.
They were worried, they said, about the amount of information that was being leaked to the media from the start of the investigation.
Tchen persuaded her to try to pawn the case off to the FBI, according to text messages obtained by USA Today.
Foxx said she was 'trying' and had spoken to Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnston to try to 'convince' him to let the FBI take the lead on the investigation.
She also exchanged text with one of Smollett's relatives who replied: 'Omg this would be a huge victory,' when Foxx mentioned her efforts.
Ultimately, the case did not move on to the FBI because there was not enough evidence that Smollett had been the victim of a hate crime as he claimed.
Foxx recused herself from the case after Smollett was arrested, saying at the time that her contact with a family member of his was a conflict of interest in the case.
Tchen, who worked with the Obamas when they were in the White House, has not publicly commented on the case.
Smollett did not initially want to involve the police on the night of the attack.
It was his friend, 60-year-old Frank Gatson, who insisted they call 911 after he arrived back at his apartment with a rope around his neck and bleach on his clothes, claiming to have been assaulted by two men who shouted: 'This is MAGA country!' as they beat him.