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Chicago Sues Jussie Smollett to Recoup Cost of Hate Crime Probe

The city of Chicago sued “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett on Thursday, as it seeks to recoup the cost of police overtime spent investigating his alleged hate crime.

Smollett is accused of staging the Jan. 29 assault, in which he claimed to have been beaten by two men who shouted racist and homophobic epithets and put a noose around his neck. Smollett was indicted for filing false statements, but the criminal charges were dropped on March 26.

The “Empire” actor continues to maintain his innocence, and refused the city’s demand to pay the police overtime costs. The Chicago Police Department calculates that 1,836 hours of overtime were expended in the search for Smollett’s attackers, costing taxpayers $130,106.15. Under a city ordinance, the city is entitled to recoup three times its total damages, or about $390,000. The city will also seek unspecified attorneys’ fees and costs, as well as a $1,000 fine for each false statement to the police.

The civil complaint was filed Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court. Last week, Smollett’s attorney, Mark Geragos, accused the city of trying to harass and intimidate his client. Geragos argued that it was unprecedented for the city to seek a file a suit for false statements after the state’s attorney’s office dropped criminal charges, and that doing so would violate Smollett’s rights not to be subjected to “double jeopardy.”

Detectives used taxi and rideshare records, phone records, and a dense network of surveillance cameras, to reconstruct the events of Jan. 29. According to detectives, they identified the attackers as Abel and Ola Osundairo, acquaintances of Smollett’s from “Empire.” Abel Osundairo had worked as Smollett’s physical trainer. According to the complaint, Smollett told police that his primary attacker was wearing a ski mask, but that the area around his eyes was “white-skinned.”

“Defendant made this statement despite knowing that the Osundairo Brothers are not white-skinned,” the suit alleges. “By providing this false description, Defendant purposely misled the CPD officers to believe that his attackers were white, when, in fact, Defendant knew that his attackers were the Osundairo Brothers.”

The complaint states that “At no point did Defendant inform police that he knew his attackers or recognized their appearances or voices.”

State’s Attorney Kim Foxx has faced strong criticism, and calls to resign, over her handling of the case. Over the weekend, she held a press conference to defend herself and her record of criminal justice reform.

“I cannot run an office that is driven by anger and public sentiment,” Foxx said. “I think we have to ask ourselves, ‘What is this really about?’… When we get in these positions, somehow goal posts change… This is personal. It’s personal.”

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