On Thursday, Jussie Smollett pleaded not guilty on 16 felony counts related to his alleged lying to the police about being the victim of a racist and anti-gay attack. Smollett still claims that he is innocent.

Not Guilty?

Smollett, who is black and gay, said in late January that two men wearing President Trump’s signature “Make America Great Again” hats assaulted him, yelled racial slurs and said “This is MAGA country.” He later surrendered to authorities who began to question his story and charged him with filing a false police report.

The Chicago Tribune reported on the scene Thursday, “Reporters, courthouse staffers and several supporters packed the courtroom for the arraignment. One man wore an ‘Empire’ T-shirt, while a woman was clad in a shirt reading ‘Justice for Jussie.”

“Smollett left the Leighton Criminal Court Building without comment, walking outside into the pouring rain surrounded by supporters. His lawyers also declined to speak to reporters,” the Tribune noted. “The 36-year-old actor, who is free on $100,000 bond, has previously denied lying to police or faking the attack.”

Police say that Smollett admitted he staged the attack because he was unhappy with his salary for his role on the hit television series “Empire.”

He could face up to 48 years in prison. Smollett’s next court appearance is scheduled for April 17

Hot button issue for the Left

Smollett’s story became a hot button issue for the Left in the beginning, precisely because it reinforced what many liberals would like to believe about Trump supporters.

When it became more obvious that Smollett might not be telling the truth, many worried that it might make the public take hate crimes less seriously.

CNN’s Don Lemon’s greatest concern seemed to be that conservatives and Fox News might be able to score political points off of Smollett’s alleged phony story.

“Sean Hannity is going to eat Jussie Smollett’s lunch every single second,” Lemon panicked. “Tucker Carlson is going to eat Jussie Smollett’s lunch every single second. The President of the United States is going to eat his lunch.”

What happens next with Jussie Smollett is anyone’s guess, but it will be interesting not only to see his defense but also how the Left reacts to what is sure to be a spectacle.