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Chicago sues actor Jussie Smollett over costs of investigating alleged attack

The 'Empire' actor previously refused to cover police overtime, incurred while investigating his claims of a hate crime

Actor Jussie Smollett makes a court appearance last month, before charges were dropped. Reuters
Actor Jussie Smollett makes a court appearance last month, before charges were dropped. Reuters

The city of Chicago has filed a lawsuit against Jussie Smollett, seeking three times the damages it said it incurred in the investigation of a hate crime that authorities allege the Empire actor staged.

The lawsuit, which did not specify the amount of damages, was filed on Thursday, more than two weeks after prosecutors dismissed the criminal charges against Smollett alleging he fabricated the January 29 attack.

Chicago officials previously said they would sue Smollett after he refused a demand by the city for $130,000 (Dh477,000) to cover police overtime costs to investigate the actor's claims.

Actor Jussie Smollett arrives to attend a hearing on whether cameras will be allowed in future proceedings of his trial on felony charges, at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
The city of Chicago is pursuing Jussie Smollett for costs incurred while investigating an alleged attack. Reuters

The lawsuit said Chicago would seek "three times the amount of the damages the city sustained".

The actor's criminal defence attorney, Mark Geragos, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Geragos, who in the past has represented celebrities such as Michael Jackson, previously said Smollett "will not be intimidated into paying the demanded sum".

Smollett, 36, ignited a firestorm on social media by telling police on January 29 that two apparent supporters of President Donald Trump struck him, put a noose around his neck and poured bleach over him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs on a Chicago street.

Charges dropped

In this image released by Fox, Bryshere Gray, from left, Jussie Smollett, Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard appear in a scene from "Empire." Smollett, who alleges he was the victim of a brutal racial and homophobic attack, is a former child star who grew up to become a champion of LGBT rights and one of the few actors to play a black gay character on primetime TV. His breakthrough came aboard the hip-hop drama “Empire,” playing Jamal Lyon, a talented R&B singer struggling to earn his father’s approval and find his place in his dad's music empire. It became one of the biggest network shows to star a gay black character. (Chuck Hodes/FOX via AP)
Jussie Smollett, second left, with co-stars Bryshere Gray, Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard in 'Empire'. AP

After weeks of investigation, Chicago police determined that Smollett cooked up the scheme — in which they allege he hired two brothers to pose as his attackers — because he was dissatisfied with his salary on Empire.

Smollett, best known for his role on the Twentieth Century Fox Television hip-hop drama, has said he has always been truthful about the incident.

He was charged in February with staging the incident and filing a false police report, but Cook County State's attorney's office prosecutors dropped all charges against him in March.

Outgoing Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel described the decision as “a whitewash of justice".

Smollett admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to do community service and give up $10,000 in bond money.

It remains to be seen whether Chicago's mayor-elect, Lori Lightfoot, will pursue the legal case when she takes office on May 20.

She said the state's attorney's office had to better explain why it dropped charges and there should not be the perception there was one set of justice for the "rich or famous" and another for everyone else.

Updated: April 15, 2019 02:31 AM