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Jussie Smollett Pleads Not Guilty to 16 Felonies in Alleged Hoax

Jussie Smollett returned to court on Thursday to plead not guilty to 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct. Smollett was indicted last week after Cook County prosecutors alleged he’d staged a fake attack on himself. He was arrested back in February after his initial charge of felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, but has since been released on bail.

Smollett continues to claim that the attack was a legitimately racist, homophobic act on the part of two unknown masked men. Smollett told police that the two men attacked him at around 2am on January 29, tying a noose around his neck and shouting bigoted slurs. Smollett has since been interviewed on Good Morning America, and issued a statement in an attempt to maintain the legitimacy of the attack.

Through video evidence, Cook County prosecutors believe they have identified a different timeline of the night’s events, claiming that Smollett actually paid the two assailants for the rope, masks, bleach, and worked out all the details ahead of time in an effort to make the attack seem like a hate crime. Said Smollett’s attorney Mark Geragos: “This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines.”