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Jussie Smollett lawyers say city lawsuit seeking payback is ‘perverse tactic’

After disorderly conduct charges against the “Empire” actor were dropped, the city sued to get back $130,106 spent on police overtime to investigate a hate crime they say was staged.

Jussie Smollett leaves court after charges were dropped. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Jussie Smollett has been sued by the city of Chicago to recover the $130,000 cost of investigating a hate crime that police allege was a staged by the “Empire” actor.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Lawyers for Jussie Smollett asked a federal judge Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit demanding the “Empire” actor pay back more than $130,000 city officials say was spent on the investigation into the alleged hoax crime.

The city of Chicago’s lawsuit was filed under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, weeks after the Cook County state’s attorney’s office made the controversial decision to dismiss disorderly conduct charges against Smollett for allegedly faking an attack near his Streeterville home in January.

In a motion filed Tuesday, Smollett’s lawyers described the city’s lawsuit as a “perverse tactic,” stressing that Smollett has never admitted any wrongdoing and the prosecutors’ dismissal of the case.

The city’s lawsuit seeks to recover $130,106.15 for the cost of the investigation and the 1,836 hours of manpower expended during the weeks-long investigation that identified two acquaintances of Smollett’s — brothers Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo — who told police they’d been paid to stage the attack.

In the filings, Smollett’s lawyers said the city’s attempt to collect money was “unprecedented.” The city cited the case of an Iowa doctor who claimed to have been mugged on the Riverwalk in 2010, but Smollett’s lawyers noted that the physician had pleaded guilty to making a false report before paying back more than $15,000.

“Here, not only did Defendant [Smollett] maintain his innocence and the prosecution dropped the charges,” the motion to dismiss states.

The motion also also notes that Judge Michael Toomin had ruled that the state’s attorney’s office had mishandled State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s decision to recuse herself from Smollett’s case and determined that Smollett’s entire prosecution had been “entirely improper.”

Toomin’s finding was included in an order that authorized the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Smollett’s hate crime claims and the state’s attorney’s handling of the matter. Another set of Smollett’s lawyers have argued that Toomin’s decision was in error and a special prosecutor was not needed.

The special prosecutor, whose appointment has not yet been announced, would have authority to bring new charges against Smollett. City Law Department officials said the special prosecutor investigation and the lawsuit to recover the investigation costs are unrelated, and that the city’s lawsuit would continue.

A hearing on the motion to dismiss the city’s lawsuit has been set for Aug. 13.