Empire actor Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to lying to police

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Actor Jussie Smollett arriving at court in Chicago (Ashlee Rezin/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Empire actor Jussie Smollett has pleaded not guilty to the charges accusing him of lying to police about being attacked in Chicago a few weeks ago.

The 36-year-old actor’s lawyer, Tina Glandian, entered the plea on Smollett’s behalf after Judge Steven Watkins was assigned to oversee the case, including the trial.

The next court date was scheduled for April 17.

Smollett is charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct.

Actor Jussie Smollett arriving at court in Chicago
Actor Jussie Smollett arriving at court in Chicago (Matt Marton/AP)

Prosecutors allege that the actor, who is black and gay, hired two friends to help stage an attack on him in downtown Chicago early on the morning of January 29.

Police say Smollett told detectives that two masked men beat him while hurling racist and homophobic slurs, and that they poured an unknown substance on him and hung a noose around his neck before fleeing.

Smollett has denied staging the attack and maintains his innocence.

Judge Watkins granted Smollett’s request to be allowed to meet with lawyers in New York and California, but said the actor must give the court prior notice of at least 48 hours.

There were several supporters outside the court as Smollett arrived for the hearing, including some who waved signs.