As a special prosecutor probes into what really happened with Jussie Smollett in the early morning of January 29 on the cold streets of Chicago and the subsequently dismissed criminal case against him, the former Empire star and the Windy City are locked in a new war of words and court filings over their compensation lawsuit.
Earlier this month, Smollett moved to have the $130,000 repayment action filed by the city tossed to the curb. Now repped by Lori Lightfoot, Chicago has swung back in a filing of its own late Monday, saying no way and pay us double what you owe for the work the Chicago Police department did investigating an alleged attack.
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“This lawsuit seeks to recover costs that Plaintiff City of Chicago (“City”) incurred because Defendant Jussie Smollett lied when he told Chicago Police Department officers that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack,” the response (read it here) in federal court Monday says in its efforts to deny Smollett’s motion to dismiss).
“The City’s allegations are straightforward: Defendant falsely told CPD officers that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack, causing CPD to investigate Defendant’s claims and incur commensurate costs,” assert Renai Rodney and Eli T. Zenner of the City of Chicago Department of Law. “Indeed, 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.”
The law allows Chicago to seek a re-payment of three times the estimated costs – about $390,318. However, in this latest filing, the city’s lawyers state they want a “double recovery,” or just more than $260,000. And that’s not all Chicago wants.
“If, however, the Court grants Defendant’s motion in whole or in part, the City respectfully requests that the Court’s order be without prejudice so that the City may cure any pleading flaws through an amended complaint,” the 12-page opposition notes.
Unsurprisingly, Smollet has another POV on the whole thing, and Chicago’s response to his response to their lawsuit.
“Regardless of what is said by the city, every iota of information Jussie Smollett has stated has been fully corroborated by the police documents,” said a spokesperson for the actor, who played Jamal Lyon for five seasons on the Fox hip-hop drama. “Not documents from his PR or legal team but documents generated by the very people who continuously claim it as fact that he is guilty,” the rep adds, before the kicker.
“But this requires people to look at the actual evidence which nobody seems to want to do.”
Initially treated as a potential hate crime by Chicago police and eliciting sympathy from Donald Trump, the Empire cast and creators Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, and many more, the tide turned against Smollett as “persons of interest” siblings Ola and Abel Osundairo claimed that it was the actor who was the mastermind of the January attack.
In the spring, criminal charges were laid against Smollett, who has always maintained his innocence. If Smollett had been convicted on all 16 counts, he could have faced nearly 50 years in state prison. However, the case was suddenly dropped and sealed in late March upon request from the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.
“After reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollet’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” said the office run by Kim Foxx, who had recused herself from the case and has been much criticized over the matter as a backlash quickly emerged.
Among other reactions, then-mayor and now CNN contributor Rahm Emanuel went straight to the microphones to proclaim how pissed off he was by the “whitewash of justice,” as he termed it. Emanuel also soon afterwards demanded Smollett pay back what Chicago PD had incurred investigating what they now saw as a hoax. That eventually led to the lawsuit against the actor, who has been written off Empire and will not be returning for the series’ sixth and final season.
First Assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Joseph Magats told local media in response to the response of Emanuel and the CPD that he did actually believe Smollett was guilty of staging the assault. Handling the case, Magats also said the deal and the sealing of the case did not exonerate Smollett in any way. That claim only served to further muddy the water, to put it kindly.
At the same time, Smollett’s criminal case has since come unsealed and thousands of pages of documents, video and other material has been flushed out into the public sphere. Convoluted to say the least, there has been no smoking gun as of yet to clear or condemn Smollett.
What has tainted the situation is a judicial ruling in late June seeking a special prosecutor and the appointment late last week of former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb to unravel why the criminal case was halted and dropped in the manner it was. Promising a fast-moving probe, Webb’s investigation could see Smollett re-charged, or not.
The move was opposed by county prosecutors, who said a special prosecutor would duplicate the efforts of the country inspector general’s office, which is also looking into Foxx’s decision to nullify all charges against Smollett.
All of which means the criminal case could be resolved before the compensation case is, which would be yet another twist in this drama.