Chicago, IL – The city of Chicago is filing suit against “Empire” star Jussie Smollett after he refused to pay the $130,000 the city is demanding for the investigation into his January hoax attack.
“Mr. Smollett has refused to reimburse the City of Chicago for the cost of police overtime spent investigating his false police report on January 29, 2019,” Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the city’s legal department, said in a statement, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“The Law Department is now drafting a civil complaint that will be filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County,” the statement continued. “Once it is filed, the Law Department will send a courtesy copy of the complaint to Mr. Smollett’s Los Angeles-based legal team.”
McCaffrey said the lawsuit would be filed soon and that they would “pursue the full measure of damages allowed under the ordinance.”
The announcement one day after the newly-elected mayor called on Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to explain why she dropped the charges against Smollett.
“The State’s Attorney’s office here which made the decision unilaterally to drop the charges has to give a much more fulsome explanation,” soon-to-be-Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot told MSNBC.
“We cannot create the perception that if you’re rich or famous or both that you got one set of justice - and for everybody else it’s something much harsher,” Lightfoot continued. “That won’t do and we need to make sure that we have a criminal justice system that has integrity.”
Smollett’s legal team issued their own threats at the notion of the actor repaying the city.
“In light of their apparent vested interest in the matter, we are confident that Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent Johnson will not object to providing their testimony under oath,” attorney Mark Geragos said in a letter sent to city’s corporation counsel on Thursday, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“Mr. Smollett’s preference remains, however, that this matter be closed and that he be allowed to move on with his life,” the attorney said.
Geragos has represented such celebrities as Michael Jackson, Chris Brown, and Colin Kaepernick.
Most recently he was listed as a “co-conspirator” in the indictment of fellow attorney Michael Avenatti for allegedly attempting to extort Nike, KCAL reported.
The city of Chicago sent a letter to Smollett on March 28 demanding timely payment of the $130,106.15 the police department spent on overtime to investigation the hoax hate crime the actor staged on himself on January 29.
Smollett told police on Jan. 29 that he had been attacked by two white supporters of President Donald Trump on his way home from a Subway restaurant.
He claimed the men called him homophobic and anti-black slurs and told him “This is MAGA country” as they beat him up and put a noose around his neck. He also said they threw a chemical on him.
However, investigators quickly figured out that something was amiss, and then identified Smollett’s attackers.
The men told police Smollett had paid them $3,500 to stage the hoax hate crime.
“The city feels this is a reasonable and legally just amount to help offset the cost of the investigation," McCaffrey said at the time, according to WMAQ.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has expressed fury over the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office’s decision to drop all 16 felony charges against Smollett.
He told reporters at a press conference on Thursday that he expected the actor and his attorneys to write the city of Chicago a check to pay for all the time and resources that were wasted investigating the staged crime, WMAZ reported.
"The police are assembling the cost [of the investigation]," the mayor explained. "They'll do that and then the corporation counsel of the city of Chicago will communicate to Jussie Smollett and his legal team about recouping that cost in that effort.”
“And, given that he doesn't feel any sense of contrition and remorse, my recommendation is when he writes the check, in the memo section he can put the words, 'I'm accountable' for the hoax," he continued.
"The finance is a piece of it and an acknowledgement that what he did at every level was wrong," Emanuel said.
The mayor reminded reporters that the grand jury indicted Smollett and that prosecutors have admitted that they did not believe the actor was innocent.
“I think we’ve got to be clear about this,” Emanuel continued. “That there was an action here. In my view, that it was a hoax. And obviously the grand jury, more importantly that my view, the grand jury believed that. They were shown a sliver of evidence and they came to a conclusion.”
“And he has cost not only the city financially… but also a sense of the wrong he’s done by taking advantage of our values as a welcoming city that welcomes people of all walks of life, of all backgrounds to feel comfortable in the city,” the mayor said. “So when he does pay the city back… in that memo section he can write ‘I’m sorry and I’m accountable for what I’ve done.’”
Cook County prosecutors announced they had dropped all charges against Smollett on March 26.
It turns out that in exchange for making the case go away, all Smollett had to do was 16 hours of community service at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and forfeit the $10,000 bail he posted after he was arrested, WBBM reported.
During a celebratory press conference outside the courthouse, Smollett once again proclaimed his innocence.
Then his attorneys released a statement that said the police department and mayor should apologize to the actor.
Despite initial assertions from Smollett’s attorneys that the bill will not be paid, experts said that the “Empire” star is opening up a whole new can of worms..
Chicago could theoretically end up being awarded as much as three times the initial demand – a little more than $390,000 – as a penalty for non-payment.
But first, in order to fight the tab for the investigation in court, Smollett’s hoax attack case will have to be fully litigated in order for the judge to determine if the attack was actually fake, according to TMZ.
Only after that has been determined can a judge decide if, and how much, the actor owes the city of Chicago.
Furthermore, the law only requires the judge to believe with 51 percent certainty that Smollett faked the attack for the civil lawsuit. The burden of proof is significantly lower than in a criminal trial, TMZ reported.
If Smollett loses the case against the city, Chicago will be able to freeze his bank accounts and garnish his wages, including his salary from “Empire.”