CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss Chicago’s lawsuit against former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett over his refusal to repay $130,000 the city says it cost to investigate what officials have called a staged hate crime.
The city sued Smollett in April, originally in Cook County state court, to recover the money under its false statements and cost recovery ordinances.
The actor allegedly faked a hate crime against himself in Chicago in January, saying that two men yelled racist and homophobic comments at him and put a rope around his neck.
Two brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, told police that they were paid $3,500 to stage the attack, while Smollett claims the money was for personal training services.
Chicago says Smollett owes them for the cost of investigating his false report, which included 1,836 hours of police overtime. The city’s lawsuit has been moved to federal court.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Virginia M. Kendall, a George W. Bush appointee, denied Smollett’s request to dismiss the complaint, saying it should be argued on facts.
Maintaining his innocence, Smollett argued in an Aug. 5 motion to dismiss that “this perverse tactic is entirely at odds with the form, function, and prior use of the [false statements and cost recovery ordinances], which by design allow the city to impose penalties and recover costs where a party has violated the law.”
He also argued that even if he was lying about what happened, he had no way of knowing the Chicago Police Department would spend as much money as it did looking into it.
“The filing of a police report, in and of itself, does not necessitate a sprawling investigation nor does it, as a practical matter, usually result in an investigation such as the one CPD chose to undertake in this case,” the motion states.
The city countered that its allegations were “straightforward,” claiming it has GPS information, text messages and video evidence proving that Smollett lied and coordinated the attack with the Osundairos.
Chicago’s reply to the motion to dismiss states “the entire purpose of submitting a police report is to cause police to investigate the report. The CPD investigation and commensurate costs were therefore the natural and foreseeable result of defendant’s claim that he was the victim of a heinous hate crime.”
Judge Kendall agreed Tuesday, saying in court that given “a very volatile climate…it isn’t unreasonable to think [police] would spend the hours and effort” to investigate a high-profile crime.
One of Smollett’s attorneys, William Quinlan, said after the hearing Tuesday that bringing the facts to light is “something that my client looks forward to.”
“We’re hoping to show what my client has been saying all along,” Quinlan added, alluding to Smollett’s claims of innocence. “He believes you don’t put a price tag on that.”
Sixteen felony charges were filed against Smollett involving his alleged hoax, but the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office abruptly dropped the case, drawing outrage from both city officials and the public.
A special prosecutor has been appointed to look into whether State’s Attorney Kimberly Foxx did anything wrong when she stayed involved in the case despite recusing herself. He could also recommend reopening the criminal case against Smollett.
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