Fans Are Divided By Jussie Smollett's "Empire" Return For Midseason Premiere

Jussie Smollett arrives at Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago

Jussie Smollett arrives at Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago

After police detained two brothers who were "persons of interest" in the case in mid-February, police sources revealed that authorities suspected Smollett knew the men and allegedly had paid them $3,500 to stage the attack.

Jussie Smollett made his second court appearance of the week on Thursday in Chicago, where he pleaded not guilty to the 16 felony counts he was indicted on earlier this month.

Smollett is expected to enter his plea before Watkins after a short recess.

Smollett has denied staging the attack and maintains his innocence.

Interestingly enough, Empire returned for its Season 5 midseason premiere on Wednesday, marking the show's first new episode since Smollett's alleged January 29 attack.

"We welcome cameras in the courtroom so that the public and the media can see the actual evidence and what we believe is the lack of evidence against Mr. Smollett, and we look forward to complete transparency and the truth coming out", she said at a news conference earlier this week.

The Empire star was back in court on Thursday for his arraignment, where he revealed his stance. Geragos continues, "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".

The indictment says Smollett told police he was attacked around 2 a.m.by two men who used racial and homophobic slurs.

One of Smollett's attorneys, Mark Geragos, responded to the indictment in a statement to ET.

That judge will then likely ask Smollett to enter a plea. They became cooperating witnesses and were released without charges.

The 36-year-old actor was charged with 16 felony counts last week for allegedly masterminding a false attack to gain publicity and win a bigger paycheck.

Though, Smollett has been written out of the final two episodes of the present fifth season, the actor was front and center in the long since filmed "My Fault Is Past" episode on Wednesday. When Watkins warned him to show up on time for each future court hearing or risk jail time, Smollett replied, "Yes, your honor".

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