Jussie Smollett’s attorney sent a defiant letter to the City of Chicago on Thursday evening, saying the “Empire” actor will not be “intimidated” into paying for the investigation of his alleged hate crime.
The city has said it intends to sue Smollett to recoup the $130,000 in police overtime costs arising from the incident, which Smollett is accused of staging. Smollett was initially indicted on 16 counts of filing a false police report, but the charges were dropped suddenly last week.
In his letter to the city, attorney Mark Geragos said that Smollett maintains his innocence, and that it would be both unprecedented and unconstitutional for the city to pursue him in civil court.
“Your letter represents part of a course of conduct intended to harass and irreparably injure Mr. Smollett,” Geragos wrote, adding that such an action would be an abuse of the city’s false claims ordinance. “Our research discloses no cases in which the municipal ordinance to try to get a second bite at the apple once charges against a criminal defendant have been dismissed.”
Under the ordinance, the city could seek to recoup three times the cost of the investigation, or about $390,000. The city has said it is drafting a civil complaint to recoup the “full measure” of damages in the case, and will file it soon.
In his letter, Geragos argued that any effort to prosecute Smollett under the ordinance would violate the principle of double jeopardy. Smollett has already forfeited a $10,000 bond payment to the city in connection with the dismissal of the felony charges.
If the city moves ahead with the suit, Geragos said he would subpoena Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, both of whom have been outspoken in denouncing Smollett’s conduct and in expressing their dismay at the State’s Attorney’s decision to drop the charges.
“In light of their apparent vested interest in this matter, we are confident that Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent Johnson will not object to providing their testimony under oath,” Geragos wrote.
Smollett has claimed that he was assaulted on the streets of Chicago on Jan. 29. He told police that two men yelled racial and homophobic slurs and put a noose around his neck. The investigation found that Smollett had hired his personal trainer and the trainer’s brother to attack him.
In a footnote to the letter, Geragos attempts to argue that Smollett’s initial claims to police were consistent with the department’s ultimate conclusions. “The investigation revealed that Mr. Smollett’s statements to police — that on January 29, 2019, two men attacked him while yelling racial and homophobic slurs — were, in fact, true,” Geragos wrote.