Chicago Demands ‘Empire’ Actor Pay $130K for Investigation

Actor Jussie Smollett talks to the media before leaving Cook County court after his charges were dropped on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

CHICAGO (CN) – Chicago demanded Thursday that “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett repay the $130,000 it cost to investigate the alleged hate crime against him that city officials insist he staged.

Sixteen felony criminal counts of disorderly conduct against the actor were abruptly dropped abruptly on Tuesday.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the move a “whitewash of justice.”

Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson echoed the mayor’s sentiments, saying, “Do I think justice was served? No. And I think this city is still owed an apology.”

Smollett, who is black and gay, claims in January he was attacked late at night on a Chicago street by two men yelling racist and homophobic slur and putting a rope around his neck.

Two brothers, one of whom worked on “Empire,” were questioned by police and told investigators Smollett paid them $3,500 to stage the attack.

Prosecutors with the Cook County State’s Attorney Office said that Smollett agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond and had a record of community service in Chicago, two factors in their decision to drop the charges. They added that it was not an admission of his innocence.

Smollett and his attorneys, on the other hand, maintain that he is a victim and the charges against him were baseless.

But in a letter Thursday, Chicago said it may take legal action against Smollett if he doesn’t pay up $130,106 to cover the cost of the investigation within seven days.

“The City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department take seriously those who make false statements to the police, thereby diverting resources from other investigations and undermining the criminal justice system,” the letter from the city’s law department states.  

Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey told Courthouse News that the city “is not committed to any future legal action” just yet but has a “lengthy and successful track record on recovering costs under the false statement ordinance.”

“The city feels this is a reasonable and legally justifiable amount that will offset the cost of the investigation,” McCaffrey added.  

President Donald Trump tweeted early Thursday that the Department of Justice and the FBI would be looking into how Cook County handled Smollett’s case, calling it “outrageous.”

The Chicago Fraternal Order of Police has also asked the FBI to look into Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly M. Foxx, who recused herself from the case early on, citing a familiarity with potential witnesses.

It turned out that a former aide to Michelle Obama, Tina Tchen, asked Foxx to speak with one of Smollett’s family members about the case, which she did.

The FBI is also investigating a threatening letter that Smollett says he received, and Chicago police say he sent to himself.

Smollett’s attorneys could not be reached for comment Thursday on the demand letter.

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