Actor Jussie Smollett plead not guilty to 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for lying to police investigators about an alleged hate crime. Smollett walked into Leighton Criminal Courthouse with his attorneys and bodyguard for his court appearance on March 14.
Prosecutors accused Smollett of arranging a homophobic, racist attack against himself in Chicago on Jan. 29 because he was dissatisfied with his salary on the Fox television musical Empire.
Smollett was arrested on Feb, 20 and ordered to remain in Chicago as a condition of his $1 million bond.
According to The Blast, attorney Tina Glandian requested permission for the actor to travel to New York and California to meet with his lawyers, including Mark Geragos, throughout the case.
The judge allowed the request, on the condition that he gives 48 hours notice to pre-trial services prior to any travel out of state.
The judge also made it clear that he was to appear at all hearings on time. Smollett is due back in court on April 17.
Smollett is accused of paying two brothers to stage a hoax hate crime against himself.
In related news, Empire show-runner Brett Mahoney insists it’s “too early” to think about firing Smollett from the TV show.
The 36-year-old actor, who played Jamal Lyon in the hip-hop drama, was removed from the final 2 episodes of the 2nd half of season 5.
Mahoney, who described the recent weeks as an “emotional rollercoaster”, admitted it was difficult deciding to remove him from those episodes, but it was necessary to avoid disruption.
“I think in terms of allowing the cast and the crew to really get the work done without a great deal of disruption in terms of the day-to-day and the stress of the day-to-day, and, in addition, allowing Jussie the time to really deal with what he’s been confronted with and allow him the time to focus and prepare his case, this seems like the logical decision to make,” he continued.
Mahoney dismissed reports that Fox Television hired a new actor to replace Smollett’s character.
“It’s a matter of trusting the process and allowing the legal process to play out and see where it goes from there. And it’s too early to think about what we would have to do if we didn’t have Jussie,” he said. “We have such a strong ensemble and we have so many stories to tell for all of these fascinating characters that it’s bigger than one character, but it’s too early to think about the show without him.”
Mahoney also addressed rumors that the drama was dividing the cast and crew, saying it was actually “bringing people together”, and that he’s confident the show will be renewed for another season, even though it’s been speculated the show is on the chopping block.
“I know that the network and studio is really happy with what we’ve done creatively this season,” he said. “All the indications I have are that we will be (renewed). And we do have so many of these stories to tell, so I can’t imagine we won’t be able to tell them.”
Jussie was included in scenes when the show returned for its midseason premiere on Wednesday night. Social media users welcomed the presence of Jussie onscreen. But others were disappointed that Fox didn’t cut Jussie’s scenes totally.