Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to staging hate-crime attack

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Jussie Smollett arrives in sunglasses at the Leighton Criminal Court Building for his hearing Thursday in Chicago.

- Police say they've reviewed hundreds of hours of surveillance camera footage, including of Smollett walking downtown, but none shows the attack.

Smollett will next appear in court on April 17.

Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty Thursday to multiple disorderly conduct charges. The charges all are Class 4 felonies, the lowest category of felony offense under IL law.

Smollett was initially charged with one count of lying to the authorities on February 20.

The Jussie Smollett case has brought doubts over the future of Empire, which has yet to be renewed for a sixth season. Chicago police say the money was for the staged attack, while Smollett claims it was for a five-week nutrition and workout program, as noted in the check's memo. Smollett's character appeared in several emotional scenes, and social media users found irony in one that showed Jamal performing at his former high school: "I don't know if y'all been reading the blogs and all that foolishness, but it's kind of been a tough week", Smollett's character tells the crowd. The counts focus on allegedly false statements made to two different Chicago Police officers.

The Empire actor is accused of lying to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack earlier this year.

In January, Smollett claimed that he was attacked by two masked men who beat him, put a rope around his neck, dumped a chemical on him, and yelled "This is MAGA country!" This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines in order to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the outrageous leaking of false information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie's privacy in tampering with his medical records. According to police, he led authorities to believe that his attackers were white when in fact his attackers were Nigerian-American men who he allegedly paid to attack him.

Mark Geragos, one of Smollett's attorneys and a CNN legal analyst, said the actor maintains his innocence and called the indictment "prosecutorial overkill". "We stand behind the work of detectives and refer any comment on indictment to prosecutors".

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