Actor Jussie Smollett pleads not guilty to restored charges
US actor Jussie Smollett has pleaded not guilty to restored charges that accuse him of staging a racist, homophobic attack against himself and falsely reporting to police that it was real.
His lawyer, Tina Glandian, entered the not guilty pleas on his behalf to six counts of felony disorderly conduct. She also told Judge James B Linn that she has asked the Illinois Supreme Court to halt the case.
A sombre looking Smollett, 37, entered the Cook County courthouse in Chicago wearing sunglasses and sporting a beard, flanked by his legal team and surrounded by reporters.
“He’s obviously frustrated to be dragged through this process again,” Ms Glandian told reporters after the hearing.
She called the revived prosecution “an ordeal” for Smollett and said he has the support of relatives, some of whom flew out from California to be with him.
“He’s strong, he’s resilient, he’ll get through this, but he’s frustrated,” she added.
Smollett pleaded not guilty to 16 counts in the same courthouse last year, weeks before the Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx’s office abruptly announced it was dismissing the case, angering police and local government.
Smollett’s lawyers also have filed a motion in Cook County court arguing that the refiling of charges violated protections against being charged twice for the same crime, known as double jeopardy.
Prosecutors have said double jeopardy does not apply because Smollett was not prosecuted last year.
Judge Linn on Monday set a 20,000-dollar personal recognisance bond, which means Smollett does not have to pay any of it. He was not taken into custody, and his next court date is March 18.
Special prosecutor Dan Webb represented the state. Ms Foxx’s office is not involved in the new case against Smollett.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the defence motion filed with Illinois’ high court argues that the appointment of the special prosecutor was legally flawed.
Smollett has repeatedly denied police allegations that he staged the attack to get attention and further his career.
Smollett, who is black and gay, told police two masked men attacked him as he was walking home in the early hours of January 29 2019.
He said they made racist and homophobic insults, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing, and that at least one of his attackers was a white man who told him he was in “MAGA country”, a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”.
Weeks later, police alleged that Smollett had paid two black friends to help stage the attack because he was unhappy with his salary as an actor on Empire, a Fox series filmed in Chicago that follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry.
The friends, brothers Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, were among those who attended Monday’s proceedings.
If Smollett’s case makes it to trial, they would be the state’s star witnesses. The brothers are bodybuilders and aspiring actors whom Smollett knew from the Empire set and the gym.