Two days after the 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct against the Empire star were abruptly dropped, the city sent a demand to his attorney for $130,106 — the cost of overtime hours used by police to investigate the alleged attack. Smollett had until Thursday to pay up, but his lawyer Mark Geragos made it clear that no check would be sent. He “will not be intimidated into paying the demanded sum,” Geragos replied in a letter back to the city.
When the deadline was missed, spokesperson for the City of Chicago Department of Law, Bill McCaffrey, said in a statement, “Mr. Smollett has refused to reimburse the City of Chicago for the cost of police overtime spent investigating his false police report on Jan. 29, 2019. The Law Department is now drafting a civil complaint that will be filed in the Circuit Court of Cook Country. Once it is filed, the Law Department will send a courtesy copy of the complaint to Mr. Smollett’s Los Angeles-based legal team.” They plan to pursue the full measure of damages allowed under the ordinance,” but didn’t note any specific monetary amount.
A civil lawsuit isn’t great news for Smollett, who is accused of staging a racist and homophobic attack on himself, if he just wants to put this saga behind him. It will be costly, it will keep this story in the news for potentially years to come and he’ll be deposed and have to fully detail his side of the attack. Further, “to the city’s advantage, the threshold for proving he staged the incident will be lower than in criminal court,” reports the Associated Press. “The city won’t have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Smollett staged the attack in civil court, only that it’s more likely true than not true that he did.”
But Geragos, a well-established celebrity lawyer, says they’re up for the fight. His letter response talked about plans to depose Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who called the charges against Smollett being dropped “a whitewash of justice,” and other high-profile players in the saga.
The letter @JussieSmollett's attorney sent to the city of Chicago in response to the repayment of $130,106.15. The actor "will not be intimidated into paying the demanded sum," it says. pic.twitter.com/VfEzdzJ71S— Suzy Byrne (@SuzyByrne) April 5, 2019
“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,” Geragos wrote. The letter also said Smollett’s legal team will demand to see all the evidence and records from the criminal investigation, which they would like to make public.
That said, it also noted that “Smollett’s preference remains, however, that this matter be closed and that he be allowed to move on with his life.” It also reiterated that “Smollett vehemently denies making any false statements,” so the city’s “claim that Smollett filed a false police report and orchestrated his own attack is false and defamatory.”
Smollett, who is black and gay, reported to police that two masked men assaulted him in downtown Chicago, shouting racial and homophobic slurs, putting a rope around his neck and pouring a bleach-life substance on him. Smollett also said one person yelled, “This is MAGA country,” in reference to Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. While he was later arrested for making what the police said were false claims — they theorized he orchestrated it to get a raise from his Empire bosses — prosecutors abruptly dropped charges against him, a decision so controversial that even the president weighed in.
Smollett, who tapes Empire in Chicago, was cut from some episodes in the wake of this scandal. However, his co-star Taraji P. Henson said Thursday on The View that she thinks he'll be back for Season 6.
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