'Empire' actor Jussie Smollett makes court appearance 'to show confidence in his innocence'

The actor, who is black and gay, was indicted on charges of falsely reporting to police that two men had hurled racist and homophobic slurs before beating him.
Image: Jussie Smollett
Jussie Smollett arrives for a court hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on March 12 in Chicago.Derek Henkle / AFP - Getty Images

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By Janelle Griffith and Samira Puskar

"Empire" actor Jussie Smollett appeared at a hearing Tuesday in Chicago on whether cameras would be allowed in court when he stands trial on charges of staging a racist, homophobic attack on himself.

He was not required to appear, but a representative for the actor told NBC News that Smollett chose to do so “to show confidence in his innocence.”

“He will do everything he needs to do,” the representative, Anne Kavanagh, said. “He will go the extra mile to cooperate with the process.”

Neither the state nor Smollett's defense team objected to cameras being allowed in court.

Judge LeRoy Martin of the Cook County court said cameras would be allowed at a hearing Thursday morning at which time a judge will be assigned to the case. That judge will make a decision on media coverage for the duration of Smollett's case.

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Smollett's attorneys, Mark Geragos and Tina Glandian, filed motions Monday requesting to be allowed to represent him in the case. The judge approved Glandian's request on Tuesday.

After the hearing, Glandian told reporters that "a lot of misinformation" has been presented against Smollett that is "demonstrably false."

"We welcome cameras in the courtroom so that the public and the media can see the actual evidence and what we believe is actually going to be the lack of evidence against Mr. Smollett," Glandian said. "And we look forward to complete transparency and the truth coming out."

Smollett, who is free on $100,000 bond, went through security at the court without answering questions reporters shouted at him.

The actor, who is black and gay, was indicted last week by a grand jury in Chicago on 16 felony counts charging that he had falsely reported to police that two men hurled racist and homophobic slurs before beating him.

Smollett told police Jan. 29 that his attackers poured a chemical, possibly bleach, over him and put a noose around his neck.

Police initially treated the incident as a hate crime, but later said Smollett paid two brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, $3,500 to carry out the assault.

After Smollett's arrest, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson said the actor was unhappy with his salary on the Fox drama series “Empire” and had sent himself a letter containing racist language, and when that did not work, he allegedly paid the two brothers to orchestrate the attack.

Geragos said in a statement Friday that the indictment was “prosecutorial overkill” and “redundant and vindictive.”

“Jussie adamantly maintains his innocence even if law enforcement has robbed him of that presumption,” he said.