Embattled actor Jussie Smollett, who is African-American and openly gay, pled not guilty in Cook County court March 14 regarding 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly staging a phony attack and claiming he was the victim of a hate crime, The Chicago Tribune reported.
Smollett, 36, free on $100,000 bond, has previously denied lying to police or faking the attack.
Judge Steven Watkins, who has been randomly assigned to this case, is allowing the actor to travel to New York and California to meet with his out-of-town lawyers.
At a Feb. 21 press conference that attracted a crowd of media, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said that Smollett paid two brothers he knew ( Ola and Abel Osundairo ) $3,500 by check to fake the attack in the Chicago's Streeterville neighborhood Jan. 29. ( Authorities have also accused Smollett of faking a threatening letter at work a week before the attack. ) Last week, a Cook County grand jury charged embattled Empire actor Jussie Smollett in a 16-count indictment.