But the tide began to turn just days later, when police announced that the trajectory of the investigation had changed, and that Smollett would be treated as a suspect.
Jussie Smollett continues to maintain his innocence.
Smollett said "not guilty" as his lawyer entered the plea.
In a searing live press conference on that same day, CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson said it was "shameful' what Smollett allegedly try to pull off and accused him of perpetuating a "hoax".
"Yes, sir", Smollett said in a soft voice as the judge instructed him that he would next return to court on April 12. He claimed two masked men - one of them also wearing a red hat - shouted racist and homophobic slurs as they beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured a chemical on him.
- Smollett, who is also an R&B singer, gives a concert in West Hollywood, California, opening with an emotional speech in which he said he had to play the show because he couldn't let his attackers win.
Kim Kardashian wants to end California's death penalty
Gavin Newsom called him "one of the smartest people I've ever met", which the Democrat denied during a CNN interview last night. Newsom was convinced by statistics suggesting that perhaps dozens of the 737 inmates on the state's death row were innocent.
His legal team said it welcomes cameras in court due to what it described as "misinformation" leaked to the media since he reported his attack in January.
"Meanwhile, following the news of his indictment, Chief Communications Officer of the Chicago Police Department Anthony Guglielmi tweeted: ".
- Producers of "Empire" dispute media reports that Smollett's character, Jamal Lyon, was being written off the show. The men were released without being charged. Glandian said she would welcome cameras because "demonstrably false" evidence has been presented against her client.
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.
Prosecutors claimed during a hearing that same day that Smollett had paid two brothers - Abimbola "Abel" Osundairo, who worked as a stand-in on the Fox drama, and Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo, an extra - to stage the attack. His attorneys have called the charges against him "prosecutorial overkill". Investigators say they have a $3,500 check that Smollett used to pay the brothers to help him.