City of Chicago sues Jussie Smollett for police investigative costs

Joann Johnston
April 12, 2019

The lawsuit, which did not specify the amount of damages, was filed in Cook County Circuit Court over two weeks after prosecutors dismissed the criminal charges against Smollett alleging he fabricated the January 29 attack.

Smollett was given seven days to reimburse the city, but the actor's attorneys said the demand was meant to "harass and irreparably injure Mr. Smollett".

The 12-page civil lawsuit, filed in Cook County court, is the latest volley in a legal battle that shows no signs of abating since Smollett reported that masked men beat him up on January 29 in Chicago, shouting slurs and wrapping a rope around his neck.

The city filed the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court, stating that the Chicago Police Department "expended significant resources" looking into Smollett's claims. Geragos, who in the past has represented celebrities such as Michael Jackson, previously said Smollett "will not be intimidated into paying the demanded sum".

The City says the cost of investigating the case was at least $130,000 in overtime alone, but it wants hundreds of thousands of dollars on top of that to cover attorneys fees and additional expenses.

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A representative for Smollett did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. While a criminal trial requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction, a civil trial would require the city to prove only that a "preponderance of evidence" - meaning it's more likely true than not - that the incident was a hoax orchestrated by Smollett. Both center on the same question: Did Smollett stage a physical assault on himself, claiming his attackers shouted racial and homophobic slurs?

The complaint further alleged, "that same day, January 25, 2019, Global Positioning System records and video evidence indicate that [the] Defendant [Smollett] drove Abel from Empire's Cinespace Studio to Abel's apartment", and that "during the ride, [Smollett] stated that he was unhappy with the way his employers handled a racist and homophobic letter he had allegedly received three days earlier, and, as a result, he wanted to stage an attack where Abel would appear to batter him". The move outraged city officials and police.

"It is the Mayor and the Police Chief who owe apology - for dragging an innocent man's character through the mud", their statement said.

In the letter, Geragos wrote that Smollett "vehemently denies making any false statements", echoing the actor's public assertions of innocence after the charges were dropped.

Bill McCaffrey, the city's Law Department spokesman, has said the city has "a lengthy and successful track record" of suing to recover funds under a statute that makes people liable for costs incurred by the city to provide services related to their violation of the law.

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