A Chicago judge has said charges that US actor Jussie Smollett staged a hoax hate crime against himself are "utterly outrageous" and "despicable" if true.
The 36-year-old African-American actor is accused of filing a fake police report claiming he was the victim of a homophobic and racist assault.
Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke, who is also black, said the "most vile" part of the incident was the use of a noose, reports the BBC.
Police say he staged the attack because he was "dissatisfied with his salary."
The star's lawyers issued a strongly-worded statement after the hearing, calling it an "organised law enforcement spectacle" and describing Smollett as "a young man of impeccable character."
"That symbol conjures up such evil in this country's history," Judge Lyke said of a rope that Smollett claimed the attackers had hung round his neck, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The judge's comments at Thursday's court appearance alluded to the racist lynchings of thousands of black Americans in the post-American Civil War era.
Smollett, who stars on the TV series Empire, is suspected of paying two brothers to stage the attack on himself.
The siblings are co-operating with the investigation, police say.
Experts, including the Chicago Police Superintendent, say the bogus report lodged would make reporting hate crimes more difficult for victims, who may be afraid their statement will be considered a hoax.