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Jussie Smollett Pleads Not Guilty to Felony Charges After Alleged Hate Crime Hoax

The actor faces up to three years in prison for each count

Megan Vick

Update 3/14/2019: Empire star Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty on Thursday to 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. Each count comes with a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $25,000 fine. He is currently out on $100,000 bail and will next be due in court April 17.

Update 3/9/2019: Smollett's lawyer Mark Geragos gave the following statement in response to the actor's indictment:

"The fact of an indictment was not unexpected. We knew that there is no way they would expose their evidence to a public airing and subject their witnesses to cross-examination. What is unexpected, however, is the prosecutorial overkill in charging 16 separate counts against Jussie. This redundant and vindictive indictment is nothing more than a desperate attempt to make headlines in order to distract from the internal investigation launched to investigate the outrageous leaking of false information by the Chicago Police Department and the shameless and illegal invasion of Jussie's privacy in tampering with his medical records. Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption."

3/8/2019:Empire star Jussie Smollett will be going into the weekend with a legal anvil hanging over his head. According to CBS Chicago, the actor was indicted Friday by a grand jury with 16 felony counts of filing a false police report, after reportedly faking a hate crime in January.

The indictment means that Chicago police presented the grand jury with enough evidence to try Smollett for the 16 charges. The actor will be arraigned Friday, March 14, to formally hear the charges and enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

According to the indictment, Smollett claimed that he was attacked by two men around 2 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29, one of whom was wearing a mask. His family later called the incident "a racial and homophobic hate crime." However, the investigation led by Chicago police led to two Nigerian brothers who claimed that Smollett paid for the attack with a check. Police claim Smollett orchestrated the attack due to disgruntlement with his Empire paycheck; the actor has denied those accusations.

Smollett has been written out of the rest of Empire's fifth season, which is currently airing on Fox. The studio that produces the series declined to comment on Smollett's indictment.

Jussie Smollett

Jussie Smollett

Handout, Getty Images