American rapper Ja Rule (search) will plead not guilty to assault charges brought by Toronto police, his lawyer said Monday.

"You can underline that three times," Steven Skurka said outside court after setting a pretrial date for Oct. 6.

The 28-year-old performer, whose real name is Jeffrey Atkins, did not attend the hearing.

Skurka said he expects the case will go to trial in early 2005.

The star, who lives in New Jersey but had been frequenting Toronto for film shoots, was charged with assault causing bodily harm last month.

A publication ban was placed on evidence surrounding the charges. At the time, Atkins made a brief court appearance and was let out on S7,600 bail.

The lyricist is best known for hits like "Holla, Holla" and duets with Jennifer Lopez (search) ("I'm Real") and Ashanti ("Always on Time").