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Lightfoot lashes out at Smollett’s legal team

Mayor accuses Team Smollett of trying to “shift the blame to somebody else” with a subpoena for records about the internal investigation that got former police Supt. Eddie Johnson fired.

Actor Jussie Smollett walks out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on March 26, 2019.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday accused Jussie Smollett’s legal team of trying to “shift the blame to somebody else” by seeking records about former Supt. Eddie Johnson.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday accused Jussie Smollett’s legal team of attempting to “shift the blame to somebody else” by trying to muddy up fired Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson. And the mayor said she won’t allow it.

At Lightfoot’s behest, city attorneys this week filed a motion seeking to block a subpoena from Team Smollett to Inspector General Joe Ferguson’s office.

That subpoena demanded “any and all documents or communications relating in any way to your investigation(s) regarding ... Johnson’s conduct” as well as records of the cost of Ferguson’s probe of the drinking and driving incident in mid-October that got Johnson fired.

“It’s silly — and it won’t be successful. … The judge will see it for what it is: It is the definition of an outrageous fishing expedition. And it’s not just with Eddie Johnson. Those subpoenas and requests for additional information are even broader than that,” Lightfoot said Friday.

“We’re not gonna let people be harassed by Jussie Smollett’s lawyers. That’s not the way we do things in Chicago.”

On Dec. 2, Lightfoot fired Johnson. accusing him of “lying” to her and to the public about the circumstances surrounding a drinking and driving incident Oct. 17 that ended when Johnson was found asleep at the wheel of his running SUV near the 3400 block of South Aberdeen Street.

The city has sued the former “Empire” star to recover about $160,000 paid out in overtime during the course of a three-week investigation that began after Smollett reported he’d been attacked near his Streeterville home.

Police later determined Smollett had paid two associates to stage the attack, and Smollett was charged with filing a false police report. Johnson angrily condemned the actor for besmirching the reputation of the city.

Those charges were abruptly dismissed by State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office, prompting public outcry that led to still-ongoing investigations by both the county inspector general and a court-appointed special prosecutor.

The Smollett subpoena zeroes in on areas of Ferguson’s investigation into whether Johnson was “untruthful or misleading in any statement, including his statements to the public” as well as to city officials or Ferguson and his staff. The subpoena, attached as an exhibit to the city’s motion, also seeks records that indicate whether Johnson tampered with evidence related to Ferguson’s investigation into the superintendent.

City attorneys have sought to block or delay turning over the records, claiming Smollett’s lawyers should not have directly subpoenaed the files from Ferguson’s office since the inspector general’s office is a division of city government and the city is a party to the lawsuit.

Smollett’s lawyers had insisted on getting the records by Jan. 31 and had discussed with city attorneys getting the records by early February.