Judge Tells Jussie Smollett He Must Make Court Appearances

Empire actor Jussie Smollett center arrives at the Leighton Criminal Court Building for his hearing on Thursday

After Smollett pleaded not guilty, Cook County Judge Steven Watkins granted him permission to travel to NY and California to consult with his attorneys, if he provides 48 hours notice to the court's pretrial services office.

We'll continue to keep you updated as we're sure we'll be hearing more about the case ahead of his upcoming April court date. The controversial actor appeared in court this week to plead not guilty for filing a fake police report related to his January attack. His attorneys say they want the public to see the evidence, or lack thereof, in the case. "And we look forward to complete transparency and the truth coming out".

In an indictment returned by a grand jury last Thursday, Smollett, who is black, openly gay and plays a gay musician on Fox's hip-hop drama, was charged with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct alleging he gave false accounts of an attack on him to police investigators.

Smollett has denied staging the attack and maintains his innocence.

Police initially arrested the brothers on February 13, after they were recognized from surveillance footage from near the scene of the alleged attack. He told police that two men attacked him, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him, and put a noose around his neck. They became cooperating witnesses and were released without charges. Otherwise, Smollett can not leave IL without the court's permission while he is free on bail, and Watkins admonished the actor to be present an on-time for all of his upcoming court dates.

"Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked".

In a statement, Smollett's attorney Mark Geragos said while the indictment was "not unexpected".

The subsection of the IL law states: "A person commits disorderly conduct when he or she knowingly".

"Jussie Smollett knew that at the time of this transmission there was no reasonable ground for believing that such offenses had been committed", the indictment states.

It has already been announced that Smollett's character won't appear in the final two episodes of the season, and TMZ reports it will be explained that he is "out of the country". The decision was made to "avoid further disruption on set", producers said.

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