CHICAGO – Jussie Smollett appeared in court Thursday in Chicago, where he entered a not-guilty plea in a case in which he’s charged with disorderly conduct and lying to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack by two masked men in January.
A grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct alleging he filed a false report.
According to Chicago police, Smollett, who is African-American and gay, paid two men $3,500 to stage an attack on him Jan. 29 because he wasn’t pleased with his salary from the Fox show “Empire.”
Gloria Schmidt, an attorney for the two men,brothers Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, told CNN her clients regret their role in the alleged scheme, saying they were betrayed and realized the incident negatively impacts real hate crime victims.
“I believe my clients were betrayed,” Schmidt said on CNN. “You have to look at what kind of relationship they had with Mr. Smollett. He’s a celebrity. This is somebody who is in a position of power over my clients.”
When asked about the role money may have played in the incident, Schmidt wasn’t as definitive.
“You have to look at they were friends and the money did include services for training, but you have to look at it within the context of, ‘I’m this star and you’re someone who I can help and I would like to pay you for something and oh, can you do me this favor.’ So was it for training? Was it not for training? I think it’s a little bit of both.”
Smollett has maintained that he is innocent. Mark Geragos, the actor’s attorney, said the indictment is “prosecutorial overkill.”
“This redundant and vindictive 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 false information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie’s privacy in tampering with his medical records,” Geragos said.
WBBM reported that the judge said Smollett is allowed to travel to New York and Los Angeles, where his attorneys are based, without permission from the court.
Smollett is due back in court in April.