Judge to be assigned to Jussie Smollett case during court hearing today

Brenda Watkins
March 14, 2019

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett is expected to plead not guilty Thursday to charges accusing him of lying to the police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in downtown Chicago a few weeks ago.

Despite a flood of personal texts and other evidence that prosecutors presented in that late February hearing, Smollett has always insisted on his innocence and that he did not stage the attack. Smollett chose to appear at a brief hearing at Cook County criminal court earlier this week, during which Judge LeRoy Martin reportedly ruled to allow cameras in the courtroom on Thursday but clarified that a trial judge would make the final decision.

Smollett will be allowed to travel to NY and California to meet with his lawyers as long as he notifies the court 48 hours ahead of time. On Friday, a grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct - one for each supposed lie he told police - for allegedly staging his own hate crime.

In a statement, Smollett's attorney Mark Geragos said while the indictment was "not unexpected". After being picked up by police, the brothers confessed their involvement and became cooperating witnesses.

Smollett has denied all the allegations.

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His legal team said it welcomes cameras in court due to what it described as "misinformation" leaked to the media since he reported his attack in January.

Federal authorities are conducting a separate investigation into that letter.

Another key piece of evidence that will be scrutinized is the $3,500 check Smollett wrote the Osundairo brothers.

After the alleged attack, Smollett received support on social media, including from celebrities and Democratic presidential candidates. A lawyer for the brothers, Gloria Schmidt, claims it was for both. When he went to pay them was when he [asked] for this favor. 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".

Smollett returned to the small screen Thursday night on Empire, but his future on the Fox show remains up in the air. Sign up here for Yahoo Entertainment & Lifestyle's newsletter.

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