Chicago is preparing to sue Jussie Smollett to make sure the actor pays the thousands of dollars officials say he owes for allegedly faking a hate crime against himself.
The legal threat comes a little more than a week after Cook County prosecutors abruptly dropped all charges against Smollett, who was facing the possibility of five years in prison for a Class 4 felony charge of filing a false police report.
Two days after prosecutors dropped charges, Chicago officials sent Smollett a letter asking that he reimburse the city — within one week — for the $130,106.15 incurred in overtime costs during the police investigation into the actor’s claims.
But Smollett didn’t make the deadline.
“Mr. Smollett has refused to reimburse the City of Chicago for the cost of police overtime spent investigating his false police report on January 29, 2019,” Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the city said in a statement announcing the impending lawsuit.
Smollett, who is black and gay, told police that two masked men beat him, shouted “MAGA County” and other racist and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him, and placed a noose around his neck. But just a few weeks later, police said the “Empire” actor paid two brothers to stage the attack.
Weeks after that, prosecutors concluded that Smollett’s history of volunteer service and his decision to forfeit $10,000 of his $100,000 bond was sufficient punishment — although they didn’t exonerate him.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson were furious about the decision to let Smollett off the hook and insisted that he was still guilty.
Smollett, however, maintains his innocence and has refused to reimburse the city.
“Mr. Smollett will not be intimidated into paying the demanded sum,” his lawyers wrote in a letter responding to the city’s threat to sue. “Your claim that Smollett filed a false police report and orchestrated his own attack is false and defamatory.”
Should the city follow through with its threats to sue Smollett, his lawyers also said they’d insist on deposing Mayor Emmanuel and Superintendent Johnson.
The FBI has opened up a separate review into Cook County’s decision to drop charges against Smollett. In addition to the dropped charges, a judge agreed to seal Smollett’s case, which means that all evidence and court documents are withheld from public view.
Cover image: Jussie Smollett poses in the press room at the BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater on Sunday, June 25, 2017, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)