Former Empire actor Jussie Smollett appears in court

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Embattled actor Jussie Smollett returned for the first time in more than a year Wednesday to court, where he faces charges over his alleged hate crime hoax — and doubled down on his innocence.

Smollett, 39, maintained that he was not guilty of staging a January 2019 hate crime against himself as he entered Cook County court, calling the proceedings a “dog and pony show,” Fox News reported. 

The former “Empire” actor appeared for a closed hearing to determine whether one of his attorneys, Nenye Uche, has a conflict of interest representing him in the case, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Judge James Linn was expected to hear testimony from Uche as well as brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, whom Smollett knew from the set of Fox’s “Empire.”

The two brothers allege they were paid by the actor to stage a hate crime against him because he was unhappy with his salary, and they are key witnesses in special prosecutors’ case against him.

The Osundairos have claimed that Smollett’s attorney, Uche, had previously spoken with them about representing them early in the process, potentially creating a possible conflict of interest, the newspaper reported.

Uche, meanwhile, has denied being involved in conversations with the brothers, the paper reported.

The hearing is the latest after Smollett was indicted for a second time on charges of lying to police about being the victim of the alleged attack near his Chicago apartment.

The charges came from the special prosecutor who was appointed after Cook County prosecutors dropped the same charges in March 2019.

Smollett insisted he’s innocent last year and that the case against him is “bulls–t.”

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