Empire actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of disorderly conduct for his alleged involvement in setting up a staged hate crime.

The 36-year-old television star, reported an attack on January 29. Smollett who is both black and gay, told the police he was the victim of both a homophobic and racist hate crime. Following the attacks Smollett gave a widely viewed interview with Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts.

However, Smollett story didn’t add up and police and investigators began to dig deeper. On February 21, the actor surrendered himself to authorities when his narrative came into question. It is believed that Smollett orchestrated the attack himself after being dissatisfied with pay on the television series.


Smollett reported that two men hurled slurs at him, beat him up, threw bleach on him and put a noose around his neck. However, brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, later admitted they were hired by the actor and admit “tremendous regret over their involvement in this situation,” according to police.

Smollett made a surprise appearance in the courtroom Tuesday. His representatives told NBC News that Smollett did this to “show confidence in his innocence.” The judge ruled that cameras would be allowed in the courtroom as the hearings continue.

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