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Chicago sues Jussie Smollett to recoup police overtime costs

Jussie Smollett speaks to reporters after all charges against him were dropped.

Jussie Smollett | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The City of Chicago has filed a lawsuit against Jussie Smollett, claiming the actor owes the city more than $130,000 to cover police overtime costs incurred while they investigated an allegedly phony hate crime orchestrated by the TV star.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court, 16 days after prosecutors in the Cook County state’s attorney’s office dismissed all criminal charges against Smollett.

Smollett reported to police that he was the victim of a racist, homophobic attack in Streeterville in January. After weeks of investigation, the Chicago Police Department determined that Smollett cooked up the scheme — in which he allegedly hired two brothers to pose as his attackers — because he was dissatisfied with his salary on “Empire.”

A representative for Smollett did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The decision to drop the charges against Smollett has led to a firestorm of criticism against State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. And though the files in Smollett’s criminal case remain sealed, they could be made public as soon as next month. Those files will likely play an enormous role in the city’s civil litigation.

Smollett has steadfastly maintained that he was the victim of a hate crime.

While prosecutors would have had to prove Smollett’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal court, the bar is lower is civil litigation. Attorneys for the city will seek to prove Smollett concocted the plan based on the preponderance of the evidence.

After the charges were dropped last month, CPD Supt. Eddie Johnson said the public had only been made aware of a “sliver” of the evidence collected by investigators.

Once the criminal case against Smollett was dropped, he served two days of community service and forfeited the $10,000 he posted to bond out of jail.

Attorneys for the city soon after sent Smollett a letter demanding he repay the city more than $130,000 to cover the overtime paid out to police who investigated his hate crime claim. The city gave him seven days to pay, but that deadline came and went without payment.

Smollett’s attorneys framed the sudden about-face as vindication for the actor, though Joseph Magats, Foxx’s top deputy, said the dropped charges “should not be viewed as some kind of admission there was something wrong with the case, or something wrong with the investigation that the Chicago police did.”

While Magats defended the methods of police and prosecutors, Foxx appeared to walk back her confidence in the evidence against Smollett even before he was charged.

In a March letter to the Chicago Tribune, Foxx wrote that there were “specific aspects of the evidence and testimony presented to the office that would have made securing a conviction against Smollett uncertain.”

For a variety of reasons, including public statements made about the evidence in this case, my office believed the likelihood of securing a conviction was not certain,” Foxx wrote in the piece, in which she also welcomed “an outside, nonpolitical review of how we handled this matter.”

That was an apparent backtrack from what she told the Chicago Sun-Times just days earlier, when she said her office “had a strong case.”

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