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Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty over alleged hate crime hoax

Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty in an Illinois courtroom on Thursday to disorderly conduct charges over allegations he staged a hate crime and lied to police. Smollett's case was assigned to a trial judge, Judge Steven Watkins, before the actor's lawyer Tina Glandian entered not guilty pleas on his behalf to the 16 counts.

The 36-year-old actor arrived at the courthouse shortly before 9 a.m., the station reports, greeted by a handful of supporters holding signs reading "I Stand With Jussie" and "I Believe Jussie Smollett," reports CBS Chicago.

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Smollett said "not guilty" as his lawyer entered the plea. When Watkins warned him to show up on time for each future court hearing or risk jail time, Smollett replied, "Yes, your honor."

Watkins granted Smollett's request to be allowed to leave the state meet with his lawyers in New York and California, but said the actor must give the court at least 48 hours' prior notice. The next court date was scheduled for April 17.

Cameras were allowed in the courtroom Thursday, though there was no live feed of the proceedings. Smollett's attorneys have said they welcome cameras in court, as a counter to "misinformation" they claim has been leaked to the media since he reported being attacked on a Chicago street in January.

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Police and prosecutors have said that Smollett hired two brothers to stage the attack. Smollett, who is black and gay, claimed his alleged attackers used racial and homophobic slurs, hung a rope around his neck and tossed bleach on him before fleeing.

Smollett maintains his innocence. His attorneys say they want the public to see the evidence, or lack thereof, in the case.

"We look forward to complete transparency and the truth coming out," Glandian said.