"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.
- Smollett's family issues a statement calling the attack a racial and homophobic hate crime.
Smollett has denied that he staged the attack and maintains he is innocent.
Smollett said "not guilty" as his lawyer entered the plea.
Later developments cast doubt on Smollett's account, including the questioning of two suspects - a pair of Nigerian brothers, one of whom worked as a personal trainer on a music video of Smollett's - who were later released without being charged.
Smollett is charged with lying to Chicago police about the January attack in the city's Streeterville neighborhood.
Smollett also made a court appearance on Tuesday to attend a hearing on whether cameras would be allowed at his hearing today, which the judge did in fact end up allowing.The actor's legal team said they welcomed cameras as a counter to what they called misinformation being leaked to the media.More news: Greek man who missed Ethiopian Airlines flight shares emotional post
- Smollett, who is also an R&B singer, gives a concert in West Hollywood, California, opening with an emotional speech in which he said he had to play the show because he couldn't let his attackers win.
"Meanwhile, following the news of his indictment, Chief Communications Officer of the Chicago Police Department Anthony Guglielmi tweeted: ".
"Jussie has been a person of high caliber and character".
- Police release the two men without charges after arresting them on suspicion of assaulting Smollett and holding them for almost 48 hours.
State's Attorney Kim Foxx has asked Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to turn the case over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Police and prosecutors have said that attack was a hoax, but Smollett's attorneys said they want the public to see the evidence, or lack thereof, in the case. "Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense", Smollett's attorneys said in February.
Prosecutors allege that Smollett paid the men US$3,500 to stage the attack, in an apparent bid for sympathy.