Jussie Smollett says he should not pay bill for police probe into ‘attack'

Officials in Chicago say the actor staged a supposedly racist and homophobic assault.

Jussie Smollett’s lawyers have filed a motion arguing that the actor should not have to pay Chicago 130,000 US dollars for a police investigation into what he claimed was a racist and homophobic attack, because he could not have known how much time and money the department would spend looking into his allegations.

The motion, filed this week by the former actor in the television series Empire, maintains that Smollett did not stage the attack as the Chicago Police Department alleges.

But the motion also suggests that it was not necessary to spend 1,836 hours of police overtime and “untold hours of non-overtime police work” on the investigation after Smollett reported that he was a victim of an attack in Chicago in January.

According to the motion, the “filing of a police report, in and of itself, does not necessitate a sprawling investigation nor does it, as a practical matter, usually result in an investigation as extensive as the one the CPD chose to undertake in this case”.

The lawyers also argue that all a police report does is enable “the police and prosecutors to decide whether and how to investigate”.

The police department has said it only did what was necessary and that it conducted a potential hate crime investigation because Smollett alleged that two masked men hurled racist and homophobic insults at him, beat him and looped a noose around his neck.

“Whether it’s Chicago or any other US city, when he reported a vicious hate crime it was going to be investigated at the highest level of vigour and detail,” said police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Rahm Emanuel
Chicago’s former mayor Rahm Emanuel during a visit by Sadiq Khan. Mayor of London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The investigation included canvassing the area for witnesses, dozens of interviews, scientific analysis of the rope as well as the liquid that Smollett said the men threw at him, and the collection of hours of surveillance video from cameras mounted on buildings, inside taxi cabs and from cameras along miles of city streets.

The city’s lawsuit against Smollett is just part of a larger legal battle over the alleged attack that includes: criminal charges against the actor by prosecutors who alleged he staged the attack to further his career; a stunning decision by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office in March to dismiss those charges; and a judge’s appointment last month of a special prosecutor to investigate that decision.

In the filing, Smollett’s lawyers contend that the only reason the city filed suit to recoup the cost of the investigation was because former mayor Rahm Emanuel disagreed with the decision of the state’s attorney’s office to dismiss the charges against Smollett.

“The city’s claims and purported damages are a vindictive effort to prosecute charges that the State’s Attorney pursued and then chose to drop,” the filing reads.

In an earlier filing, Smollett’s lawyers characterised the city’s lawsuit as a “perverse tactic” because the charges were dismissed.

Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson have made no secret about their anger that the charges were dropped, and after Smollett refused the city’s demand for 130,000 US dollars the city sued in April for that money.

The police department maintains that there is overwhelming evidence that the actor staged the attack and paid his two “attackers” to carry it out.

And the recent appointment of a special prosecutor to examine how state’s attorney Kim Foxx’s office handled the case raised the possibility of the charges against Smollett being reinstated or of new charges being brought.

The attorney who filed the motion, William J. Quinlan, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, and a spokesman for the city’s law department said the office does not comment on pending litigation.

A federal judge hearing the city’s lawsuit has said she will rule on the actor’s request to throw the suit out during a hearing on October 22.

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