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‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty

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CHICAGO (AP) — “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has pleaded not guilty to the charges accusing him of lying to police about being attacked in downtown Chicago a few weeks ago.

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The 36-year-old actor’s lawyer, Tina Glandian, entered the plea Thursday on Smollett’s behalf after Judge Steven Watkins was assigned to oversee the case, including the trial.

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The next court date was scheduled for April 17.

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Smollett is charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct.

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Prosecutors allege that the actor, who is black and gay, hired two friends to help stage an attack on him in downtown Chicago early on the morning of January 29.

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Police say Smollett told detectives that two masked men beat him while hurling racist and homophobic slurs, and that they poured an unknown substance on him and hung a noose around his neck before fleeing.

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Smollett has denied staging the attack and maintains his innocence.

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