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Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to staging his own alleged hate crime

Terry Carter

 // Mar 14, 2019

Jussie Smollett // Chicago PD

Jussie Smollett has pleaded not guilty to staging a racist and homophobic attack in late January, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

In February, the "Empire" star was arrested charged with falsifying a police report. He was later indicted by a grand jury on 16 felony counts for lying to authorities about his alleged attack. The 36-year-old initially told Chicago PD he was approached late at night by two men wearing black ski masks on Jan 29. Smollett claims the men shouted racial and homophobic epithets at him, including "This is MAGA country" — a reference to President Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan — before striking him.

He told ABC's Robin Roberts he fought back until his assailants ran off, but not before pouring an unknown chemical substance on him and putting a rope around his neck.

According to Chicago PD, Smollett paid two Nigerian brothers to help orchestrate the hoax to further his career. Smollett was allegedly dissatisfied with his salary and upset with Fox for the way the network responded to a threatening letter he received prior to the attack. Smollett has vehemently denied those allegations and claims he had no involvement in the hate crime at all.

Smollett's attorney, Mark Geragos, has maintained his client's innocence as well. In a statement obtained by CBS, Geragos called the grand jury's 16 count indictment "prosecutorial overkill." Geragos also said the 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 information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie's privacy."

Smollett is currently out on $100k bond. His lawyers have stated they plan "to mount an aggressive defense." His character on "Empire" has been written out of the final two episodes of the current season and is reportedly being considered to be killed off or recast amid Smollett's real-life scandal.

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