Chicago Sues Actor Jussie Smollett to Recover Cost of Hate-Crime Probe

In this March 26, 2019, file photo, actor Jussie Smollett smiles and waves to supporters before leaving Cook County Court after his charges were dropped in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty, File)

CHICAGO (CN) – Two weeks after Illinois prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett for allegedly staging a hate crime against himself, the city of Chicago filed a lawsuit Thursday against Smollett over his refusal to repay $130,000 in investigation costs.

The 13-page complaint filed by city of Chicago counsel Edward Siskel alleges that Smollett violated Chicago’s false statements and cost recovery ordinances and is seeking relief for “false statements he made to the City, and seeking recovery of the costs of necessary services provided by the City,” in investigating Smollett’s claims.

The complaint states that Smollett coordinated via text with Abel Osundairo, an acquaintance with whom he had previously socialized and exercised, as well as Abel’s brother Ola to establish details of staging a fake hate crime.

The allegations then say that the two brothers, who later told investigators they were paid $3,500 each for their part, staged an attack in which, according to Smollett, two random men attacked him, yelled racist and homophobic comments at him and put a rope around his neck.

The city’s complaint finds that Smollett filed a false police report after the fact and “purposely misled the CPD officers to believe that his attackers were white” when Smollett, in fact, knew both of the Osundairo brothers.

The complaint states that over the course of the following two weeks, “the [Chicago Police Department] expended significant resources investigating defendant’s false report of a high-profile hate crime and physical assault,” which involved over two dozen officers clocking a combined 1,836 overtime hours.

Attorneys for the city sent a letter to Smollett’s lawyers in late March demanding he pay the investigation costs within seven days. Smollett did not meet that deadline.

Mark Geragos, an attorney with Geragos & Geragos who is representing Smollett, responded to Chicago’s demand with a letter of his own calling the lawsuit “defamatory” and unconstitutional, adding that Smollett would not be intimidated into paying the city.

After the Osundairo brothers revealed their role in the alleged attack, Smollett was indicted by a grand jury on 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct for allegedly faking the crime, but Cook County prosecutors abruptly dropped all charges two weeks later in exchange for the actor turning over his $10,000 bond.

Smollett continues to insist the attack was real, but his story has drawn ire from Chicago leaders, including Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The outgoing mayor called the decision to drop Smollett’s charges a “whitewash of justice.”

Cook County State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx came under fire when she recused herself from the case after she discussed it with one of Smollett’s family members.

President Donald Trump tweeted last month that the Department of Justice and the FBI would look into how Cook County handled Smollett’s case, calling it “outrageous.” The Chicago police union has also called for a similar FBI investigation into the matter.

In addition to the over $130,000 in investigation costs, the city’s complaint demands that Smollett is also on the hook for “a $1,000 civil penalty for every false statement he made to the City, in addition to three times the amount of the damages the City sustained,” as well as litigation and collection costs and attorneys’ fees.

Geragos, Siskel and officials with the City of Chicago could not be reached after business hours Thursday for comment.

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