Rahm Emanuel (left) is demanding actor Jussie Smollett pay back the city for the cost of the investigation into a hate crime that police say was a hoax. | Sun-Times photos by Mitch Armentrout and Ashlee Rezin

City demands $130K from Jussie Smollett for investigation costs

The city on Thursday laid out the cost of the investigation into the alleged hate crime against actor Jussie Smollett and demanded the “Empire” star pay the city more than $130,000.

The city on Thursday laid out the cost of the investigation into the alleged hate crime against actor Jussie Smollett and demanded the “Empire” star pay the city more than $130,000.

In a letter from the Chicago Corporation Counsel sent to Smollett’s lawyers Thursday afternoon, officials said the total cost of the overtime the Chicago Police logged to investigate the crime was considerably more than the $10,000 Smollett agreed to forfeit after charges against him for allegedly staging the attack earlier this year were dropped Tuesday.

Specifically, the cost was $130,106.15, Corporation Counsel Edward Siskel wrote to Smollett.

TIMELINE:The Jussie Smollett investigation

The city and police “take seriously those who make false statements to police, thereby diverting resources from other investigations and undermining the criminal justice system,” Siskel wrote.

Smollett’s claim that he was attacked by two men who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him was thoroughly investigated after it was reported early Jan. 29, he said.

“Over two dozen detectives and police officers participated in the investigation, ultimately spending weeks investigating your false claims, including a substantial number of overtime hours,” the letter says. “As part of this investigation, Chicago police reviewed video and physical evidence and conducted several interviews, expending resources that could have been used for other investigations. Ultimately, the Chicago police investigation revealed that you knowingly filed a false police report and had in fact orchestrated your own attack.”

The city threatened to take legal action under the municipal code of Chicago if the actor did not pay the costs within seven days via a money order or certified cashier’s check. If he doesn’t pay, Smollett was threatened with a fine of up to $1,000. The city would also potentially seek up to three times the amount of damages, as well as court and collections costs and attorney’s fees, the letter threatened.

Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the city could sue Smollett for the damages in civil court. “The city is not committing to any future legal actions at this time,” McCaffrey said. “However, we have a lengthy and successful track record or recovering costs under this ordinance.”

McCaffrey cited the hoax-stabbing of a University of Iowa physician who claimed he was attacked in April 2010 while jogging on the downtown Riverwalk.When investigators confronted Dr. Gary Hunninghake over “numerous inconsistencies” in his story, Hunninghake came clean and admitted his stab wounds were self-inflicted, the Sun-Times reported at the time.

Hunninghake was made to pay $15,500 in restitution and perform 40-hours of community service at St. Sabina Church for filing the false report after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct in order to avoid jail time, the Sun-Times reported.

In an interview with WGN-AM radio Thursday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said billing Smollett was “a small way of both acknowledging guilt and, two, that we spent these resources and the taxpayers are deserved, at minimum” restitution. “And I think there’s a whole level [of] ethical costs because he’s still walking around [saying] `Hey, I’m innocent. Everything I said from day one is true.’ We’re gonna get the resources back. But, come with those resources is, implicitly, if you pay it, that the city spent money to uncover what the grand jury discovered.”

Smollett and his attorneys have claimed in interviews that the fact the charges were dropped proves his innocence. In response to Emanuel’s comments, Smollett’s defense team shot back: “It is the mayor and the police chief who owe Jussie — owe him an apology — for dragging an innocent man’s character through the mud. Jussie has paid enough.”

Contributing: Matt Hendrickson

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