Actor Jussie Smollett returned to court in Chicago Thursday and entered in a not guilty plea to more than a dozen felony counts.
Smollett’s defense team waived a formal reading of the indictment and his attorney entered the not guilty plea on his behalf in front of a packed courtroom.
The TV actor on the show Empire showing up for his 9 a.m. arraignment at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse followed by his attorneys and his friends and family. Cameras were allowed inside as a judge assigned Judge Steven Watkins to his case.
Smollett faces 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. He claims he was the victim of a vicious hate crime in the Streeterville neighborhood back in January, but police say it was a hoax and that Smollett hired two brothers to carry out the fake attack.
Police said they have evidence to prove that he did it because he wasn’t satisfied with his salary on the show, but attorneys for Smollett say there has been a lot of misinformation in this case and Smollett is innocent. However, after court Thursday, they decided not to make a statement.
Meanwhile, a handful of supporters and fans were outside of the building Thursday morning. They held signs and wore shirts saying “I love you Jussie.”
Also Los Angeles based attorney to the stars Mark Geragos is representing Smollett. He was not at Thursday’s hearing, but local attorney Ron Safer has also been retained. He specializes in white collar crime.
Judge Watkins decided to make a decision about cameras in court at a later date The next court date is set for April 17.
Meanwhile, texts messages obtained by ABC7 Eyewitness News offer new insight into why Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the case.
The texts show the Smollett family was worried about leaks in the investigation and contacted Foxx through a politically connected lawyer.
The family wanted Foxx to ask Chicago police to turn the case over to the FBI.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Chicago Police Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said, “the FBI was working on that investigation from day one. There was never a point where the FBI could take the entire investigation on because there was no evidence produced to support Smollett’s claim of a hate crime.”
Smollett was originally charged with one felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office on Feb. 20. Smollett pleaded not guilty to that charge.
The TV actor claimed he was the victim of a vicious hate crime in the Streeterville neighborhood on Jan. 29. He said two men physically attacked him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs, threw a chemical liquid on him and looped a rope around his neck.
Two days after the alleged attack, Chicago police released surveillance images of two people they said they considered persons of interest in the attack.
But the investigation turned on Smollett. He’s now accused of allegedly orchestrating the attack with the Osundairo brothers, who he knew. One brother was an extra on “Empire” and the other was Smollett’s personal trainer.
Prosecutors say Smollett paid the Osundairo brothers to pull off the staged attack.
This article originally appeared on ABC 7 News.