Empire actor Jussie Smollett has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying to police about being the victim of a racist and homophobic assault.

The 36-year-old’s lawyer entered the plea on his behalf during a court appearance in Chicago.

Prosecutors allege that Smollett, who is black and openly gay, hired two men to help stage an attack on him in downtown Chicago in the early hours of 29 January.

He told detectives that two masked men beat him while hurling racist and homophobic slurs, and that they poured an unknown substance on him before hanging a noose around his neck, police say.

A grand jury charged him on 16 counts relating to the filing of a false police report last earlier in March.

Smollett has denied staging the attack and maintains his innocence. He is next due to appear in court on April 17.

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