An attorney for Empire actor Jussie Smollett on Thursday responded to Chicago officials demanding repayment for the investigation costs into his alleged hate hoax by threatening his own legal actions, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Smollett has refused to repay more than $130,000 to reimburse Chicago investigative costs and the city said Thursday it will sue the Empire actor for money spent investigating what officials say was a phony racist, anti-gay attack that Smollett staged.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s law chief sent Smollett a March 28 letter demanding he pay $130,106 — plus 15 cents — for overtime worked by detectives and officers in looking into his claims. It set Thursday as the deadline to pay.
“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 wrote in a letter to the city’s corporation counsel. “Mr. Smollett’s preference remains, however, that this matter be closed and that he be allowed to move on with his life.”
Jussie Smollett, who is black and gay, maintains he told the truth in reporting that two masked men assaulted him in downtown Chicago on Jan. 29, shouting slurs and wrapping a rope around his neck. He said his attackers also yelled, “This is MAGA country,” a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
Geragos said that Smollett “will not be intimidated into paying the demanded sum” by the city.
“Mr. Smollett vehemently denies making any false statements,” the lawyer continued. “Your claim that Smollett filed a false police report and orchestrated his own attack is false and defamatory.”
Chicago Tribune reports:
If the city files suit, the letter states, Smollett’s attorneys would demand to see all the evidence from the criminal case, including that which was not turned over to the defense before charges were dropped, and the legal team would ask that all records and legal proceedings be open to the public.
Apart from Emanuel and Johnson, the defense also would want sworn testimony from the two brothers who told authorities they helped Smollett stage the attack, as well as their attorney and her husband.
In response to Geragos’, the city confirmed its Law Department was preparing a civil lawsuit they will file in a county court.
“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. The Law Department is now drafting a civil complaint that will be filed in the Circuit Court of Cook Country,” Bill McCaffrey, a spokesperson for the Law Department, said in a statement Thursday evening. “Once it is filed, the Law Department will send a courtesy copy of the complaint to Mr. Smollett’s Los Angeles-based legal team.”
There will be no criminal trial on that question after Cook County prosecutors last week dropped all 16 felony counts against Smollett, saying they believed they could prove the charges but that it wasn’t worth the time and expense. The surprise decision angered Emanuel, who called it a “whitewash” and said the city’s reputation “was dragged through the mud” by Smollett.
Jussie Smollett admitted no wrongdoing, but he did agree to do some community service before charges were dropped. He also agreed to forfeit $10,000 he paid in bond money after he was charged, which some legal experts say city lawyers could try to use against him in the civil case as an implied admission of guilt.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.