The City of Chicago has filed a civil suit against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett, seeking to recover the cost of Chicago Police Department overtime hours expended searching for the perpetrators of a "hate crime" that Smollett allegedly perpetrated against himself.
Chicago's ABC affiliate reports that the city's Law Department has filed a complaint requesting damages in the amount of $130,106.15. A spokesperson for the Law Department told ABC7 that the lawsuit "pursues the full measure of damages allowed under the false statements ordinance. This follows his refusal to reimburse the City of Chicago for the cost of police overtime spent investigating his false police report on January 29, 2019."
The Cook County State's Attorney's office dropped 17 charges against Smollett stemming from the January 29, 2019 incident, in which Smollett says he was attacked by two Donald Trump supporters on his way home from getting a sandwich at a nearby Subway sandwich shop around 2 a.m. Initially, Smollett was charged with one count of filing a false police report, but a grand jury added an additional 16 counts — one for each lie they believe Smollett told investigators over the course of two separate interviews.
Smollett was allowed to walk free on a "modified plea bargain" that allowed him to avoid trial by serving 16 hours of community service and forfeiting a $10,000 bond. Smollett was not required to admit responsibility as part of the deal with prosecutors, and has since claimed innocence of all charges. The State's Attorney's office, which has faced a wave of criticism over the Smollett case, maintains that the deal does not, in fact, absolve Smollett.
After discovering that the State's Attorney intended to drop the charges, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel suggested that Smollett could reimburse the city for costs associated with investigating the "hate crime," and later, the city's Law Department issued an official request for just over $130,000.
Smollett's lawyers rebuffed the demand, claiming that it was Smollett who was owed an apology.
Thursday afternoon, the city of Chicago made good on threats to enforce the demand.
The Law Department pulled no punches in their complaint, alleging that the "Defendant knew his attackers and orchestrated the purported attack himself. Later, when police confronted him with evidence about his attackers, he still refused to disclose his involvement in planning the attack."
The city then lays out the basics of the police case against Smollett, noting that, "[o]n the evening of January 28, 2019, Defendant's flight into Chicago was delayed, and he called Abel (Osundairo) telling him he needed to delay the staged attack, and Abel agreed," and alleging that Smollett employed the Osundairo brothers because "he was unhappy with the way his employers handled the racist and homophobic letter he had allegedly received and as a result wanted to stage an attack."
The complaint also catalogues changes in Smollett's story.
"At no point did Defendant inform police that he knew his attackers or recognized their appearance or voices," the complaint alleges, going on to reveal that in his appearance on Good Morning America, he claimed to have identified his attackers in a surveillance photo issued by Chicago Police. In a subsequent interview, he again identified the men in the photo as his assailants, only to be informed that they were the Osundairo brothers.
Then things got hairy, the CPD said, according to the complaint. "Defendant made further false statements claiming his only relationship with the Brothers was as trainers and acquaintances and that they could not have been his attackers."
Last week, Smollett's lawyers said they would welcome the civil suit, and that if the city filed to recover the $130,000, they would depose both Emanuel and Chicago's Police Superintendent, Eddie Johnson. They also said they would request the complete police investigation file, which the Cook County State's Attorney took great pains to suppress in court.
The city may turn out to be the lucky party, though. The civil suit will likely force the prosecutor's office to unseal the file — at least for parties to the case — and the city will likely get to depose Smollett under oath about the January 29 incident and statements made to police.