Jussie Smollett appeared in a Chicago court on Thursday, where he pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of lying to police and filing a false police report.
According to TMZ, Judge Steven Watkins told Smollett he needs to be in attendance for every court appearance going forward, beginning with his next hearing in April. Smollett will be allowed to travel to Los Angeles and New York for work, but he must notify the court in advance of his travels.
The 36-year-old Empire actor is accused of orchestrating his own attack with the assistance of Nigerian brothers and Empire extras Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo. Smollett initially told police that he was attacked by two men outside a Subway restaurant in Chicago during the early morning hours of January 29th. The 36-year-old actor, who is openly gay, described his assailants as white men wearing ski masks, who asked Smollett if he was “that f***ot Empire n*****?” before attacking him with a rope and bleach. As they fled the scene, Smollett claimed the the men yelled, “This is MAGA country!”
Police believe Smollett was dissatisfied with his salary on Empire and used the attack as a way to increase his notoriety in the industry.
Smollett was initially arrested in February and charged with felony disorderly conduct. Prosecutors later decide to up the number of charges because Smollett allegedly lied to police on two separate occasions. If convicted of all charges, he could face up to 64 years in prison (each count carries a maximum of four years behind bars).
Following his arrest, Smollett was cut from the final two episodes of Empire’s fifth season.