“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty in a Chicago courtroom Thursday to 16 charges stemming from an alleged hate crime hoax.
Smollett’s lawyer, Tina Glandian, entered the plea on Smollett’s behalf just hours after Judge Steven Watkins was assigned the case. The next court date was scheduled for April 17.
Smollett was initially charged with one count of lying to the authorities on Feb. 20. Last week, a grand jury indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts of lying to authorities — eight counts for what he told the officer who responded to the report of the Jan. 29 attack in downtown Chicago, and eight counts for what he later told a detective about being the victim of a brutal racist and homophobic beating by two masked men. . .
Adding another plot twist to the Smollett saga is a new USA Today report that claims that, at the urging of a former senior Obama administration official, Chicago’s top prosecutor asked cops to turn over their investigation to the FBI.
Tina Tchen, who worked as former first lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff and is the co-founder of the Times Up Legal Defense Fund, contacted State’s Attorney Kim Foxx by text on Feb. 1 and said Smollett’s family had “concerns” about the investigation. (Read more from “Here’s the Latest Development of the Jussie Smollett Hoax” HERE)