CHICAGO (CN) – Former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty Monday to new criminal charges over what police say was a staged hate crime against himself.
Smollett was indicted by a grand jury for the second time two weeks ago on six counts of disorderly conduct based on four separate reports the actor made to Chicago police about a hate crime against him allegedly knowing those reports were false.
The actor left Chicago’s Leighton Criminal Court Building on Monday in a crowd of family members after being released on a $20,000 individual recognizance bond.
Cook County Judge James B. Linn, who was assigned the case, said he does not “see him as a flight risk,” although Smollett will have to pay up if he doesn’t show for future court dates.
Smollett has maintained throughout the saga surrounding the incident that he is telling the truth about an attack in Chicago in January 2019 in which he claims two men put a rope around his neck and yelled racist and homophobic slurs.
Two brothers and acquaintances of the actor, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, came forward and said they were paid to be his attackers, prompting city officials including former Mayor Rahm Emanuel and former police Superintendent Eddie Johnson to accuse Smollett of staging the whole thing.
The original charges brought against him were abruptly dropped by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office just weeks after an indictment came down, drawing fire against State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx and her office.
Attorney Dan K. Webb of Winston & Strawn was eventually chosen to lead an investigation into how Foxx’s case handled the first case against Smollett and whether or not new charges should be filed.
Webb, acting as special prosecutor, said in a statement two weeks ago that an “investigation revealed that Jussie Smollett planned and participated in a staged hate crime attack, and thereafter made numerous false statements to Chicago Police Department officers on multiple occasions, reporting a heinous hate crime that he, in fact, knew had not occurred.”
Webb also said based on the evidence, he disagreed with how Foxx resolved the case against Smollett and a new prosecution would be “in the interest of justice.”
One of Smollett’s attorneys, Tina Glandian of Geragos & Geragos, said in court that she had filed a motion to dismiss the indictment Monday morning.
Glandian told reporters after the arraignment hearing that charging Smollett with the same crime again after he was already punished – by forfeiting his $10,000 bond when his original charges were dismissed – amounts to double jeopardy.
Smollett’s legal team has also asked the Illinois Supreme Court to issue a stay pending a decision as to whether a special prosecutor should have been appointed to investigate Smollett and Foxx’s office in the first place.
“He’s frustrated to be dragged through this process again,” Glandian said of the actor. “This case has become such an ordeal.”
Smollett also faces a civil federal lawsuit in which the City of Chicago is trying to get back the $130,000 it says it spent on investigating his false claims. Smollett countersued the city for malicious prosecution.
The Osundairo brothers, who attended the arraignment with their attorney Gloria Schmidt, have their own defamation lawsuit pending against Smollett’s attorneys.
“They will be here until the very end of this process,” Schmidt said at the courthouse, adding they are ready to testify in Smollett’s case if asked. “They have been truthful since day one.”
A hearing on the motion to dismiss the case will be held on March 18.
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