Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty in a Chicago courtroom Monday to new criminal charges against him that allege he lied to police about being the victim of a hate crime.
The most recent set of charges, announced early this month, claim the former Empire star made four false police reports following Smollett’s initial declaration that he was attacked on Jan. 29, 2019, in Chicago.
The 37-year-old pleaded not guilty to six counts of felony disorderly conduct during the hearing and his lawyer Tina Glandian told Judge James B. Linn that she’s requested the Illinois Supreme Court stop the case.
Linn, however, continued with the proceedings, setting a US$20,000 individual bond and ordering Smollett to appear in court again on March 18.
Last year, Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of the same charge in the same courthouse, but soon after, prosecutors in Cook County, Ill., suddenly announced they were dropping all charges. No details were provided at the time as to why charges were dismissed and those lawyers aren’t involved in the new case.
The original case’s conclusion angered Chicago police officials and then-mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called the handling of the case a “whitewash of justice.” A special prosecutor was appointed to examine how the state attorney’s office handled the case following the backlash.
“It’s Mr. Smollett who committed this hoax. He’s still saying he’s innocent, still running down the Chicago Police Department. How dare he?” Emanuel said to reporters in March 2019. “Is there no decency in this man?” he asked.
Police have alleged that Smollett, who is Black and gay, staged a fake attack for attention and paid friends to help him. At the time, the actor claimed two masked men hurled homophobic and racist insults at him, attacked him and wrapped a noose around his neck.
The brothers who say they were hired by Smollett to participate in the attack, Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, were also in court to observe the proceedings. They will be witnesses for the state if the case makes it to trial.
Smollett has denied that he fabricated the attack to further his career and has maintained his innocence. His family released a statement after charges were dropped last year, saying, “our son and brother is an innocent man whose name and character has been unjustly smeared.”
“He was the victim of an assault and then falsely blamed for his own attack,” the statement continued.
The actor also spoke after the previous charges were dropped. “I have been truthful and consistent on every level since day one,” he said at the time. “I would not be my mother’s son if I was capable of one drop of what I’ve been accused of.”
— With files from The Associated Press and Global News’ Katie Scott