Jussie Smollett: Chicago to sue actor over ‘hoax hate crime’
Authorities launching legal bid to recoup cost of investigation into complaint by Empire star
The city of Chicago is to sue Jussie Smollett for the cost of investigating an alleged hate crime against the actor that is believed to have been a hoax.
The 36-year-old had faced 16 counts of disorderly conduct for making allegedly false claims that two white men attacked him in a Chicago suburb in the early hours of 29 January. Smollett told police that the pair had shouted Trump slogans and racist and homophobic abuse.
Two Nigerian-American brothers known to Smollett later came forward claiming that the Empire star had paid them to stage the attack, reportedly as part of a plan to increase his salary.
However, Cook County prosecutors announced last month that they had decided to drop all charges against Smollett, in what the Associated Press termed an “astonishing reversal”. The case has been sealed, meaning the full story behind the decision is unlikely ever to come to light.
“Two days later, the city’s Department of Law sent Smollett a bill in the amount of $130,106.15, and gave him one week to pay up,” Variety reports.
That deadline expired yesterday without any response - prompting the city’s legal counsel to start work on a civil suit against the celebrity.
“Mr Smollett has refused to reimburse the city of Chicago for the cost of police overtime spent investigating his false police report,” said a spokesperson for the city’s corporation.
“The Law Department will file the suit in the near future. As part of this legal action, the Law Department will pursue the full measure of damages allowed under the ordinance.”
The news that Smollett would not face prosecution for allegedly faking the attack was met with shock and anger from both city authorities and law enforcement.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasted the decision as a “whitewash of justice”, while the city’s police Superintendent Eddie Johnson insisted that Smollett had perpetrated a “hoax”.
Smollett has strenuously maintained his innocence. Speaking in court last month after the charges against were dropped, he stressed that he had been “truthful and consistent on every single level since day one”.
In a statement following the hearing, his attorneys said their client’s record “has been wiped clean”, claiming he was a “victim who was vilified”.
But Joe Magats, the assistant state’s attorney, stressed that the decision to drop the case was “not an exoneration”.
“To say that he was exonerated by us or anyone is not true,” Magats said. “We believe he did what he was charged with doing.”
Along with the costs lawsuit, Smollett may also be facing further legal troubles.
ABC News reports that a federal investigation by the FBI and the postal service into whether Smollett was the true author of a threatening letter sent to him shortly before the Chicago incident “remains open”.