Jussie Smollett Pleads Not Guilty To Disorderly Conduct Charges

Empire actor Jussie Smollett center arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court Building for his hearing on Thursday

Cameras were rolling during the court hearing Thursday, as Smollett entered his plea at the Cook County Courthouse at 26th and California.

Chicago police eventually arrested Smollett on suspicion that he had faked the incident "to promote his career", saying at a news conference last month that he paid his would-be attackers - brothers Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo - to carry it out.

Watkins granted Smollett's request to be allowed to leave the state meet with his lawyers in NY and California, but said the actor must give the court at least 48 hours' prior notice.

"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. If convicted, the "Empire" star could face three years in prison, though it is also possible he would be sentenced to probation. His attorneys have called the charges against him "prosecutorial overkill".

The brothers confessed to the plot, police said.

Smollett has denied all the allegations.

Chicago Police have opened an internal investigation into media leaks in the case, something Smollett's legal team will likely use in court.

Smollett maintains his innocence. "Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense", Smollett's attorneys said in February. 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.

"The idea of them getting paid by Jussie for the training actually occurred before...this January 29 thing happened". Amid the usual Lyon family intrigue that the episode unveiled, at one point Smollett's Jamal actually said "I don't know if y'all been reading the blogs and all the foolishness, but it's kinda been a tough week". A decision on whether he will remain with the show beyond that has not been made.

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