Published: Thu, March 14, 2019
Culture&Arts | By Dora Pope

Judge to be assigned to Jussie Smollett case during court hearing today

Judge to be assigned to Jussie Smollett case during court hearing today

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty in a Chicago court on Thursday to new charges that he falsely reported to police that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic assault on a city street.

Within minutes, Judge Steven Watkins was assigned to his case, with the arraignment beginning an hour later, according to NBC Chicago.

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett is charged with disorderly conduct, accused of orchestrating a fake hate crime against himself because he was upset with his salary.

Smollett is expected to enter his plea before Watkins after a short recess. He scheduled the next hearing for 17 April. Prosecutors claimed during a hearing that same day that Smollett had paid two brothers - Abimbola "Abel" Osundairo, who played Jamal's love interest on the Fox drama, and Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo, an extra - to stage the attack.

"As more evidence, such as text messages, phone records, social media records, bank records, surveillance video and the receipt from the purchase of the rope was obtained by investigators, the investigation shifted from a Hate Crime to a Disorderly Conduct investigation [against Smollett]", prosecutors explained in their bond proffer. On Tuesday, a lawyer for the actor said that she would "welcome cameras in the courtroom" during a trial "so that the public and the media can see the actual evidence and what we believe is the lack of evidence against Mr. Smollett and we look forward to complete transparency and the truth coming out".

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"Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption", the lawyer, Mark Geragos, said last week. 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.

Fox cut Smollett's character in "Empire" after he was arrested.

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

"Jussie has been a person of high caliber and character".

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