Officials in Chicago said they plan to file a civil suit against actor Jussie Smollett after he allowed a deadline to pass for paying the city the costs of an investigation into what authorities called a hate crime hoax.
In a letter sent to the “Empire” actor last week, officials in Chicago’s Department of Law demanded Smollett pay the city more than $130,000 for the costs of the investigation. Officials warned that Smollett could face further legal action if he failed to repay the government.
Update 1:25 p.m. EDT April 5: Smollett's attorney framed prosecutors' letter demanding investigative costs from the actor as "part of a course of conduct intended to harass and irreparably injure Mr. Smollett."
“Your letter is both factually and legally flawed, and Mr. Smollett will not be intimidated into paying the demanded sum,” Smollett attorney Mark Geragos said Thursday in a letter sent to city officials.
In a statement obtained by WBBM-TV, authorities said they were drafting a civil complaint against Smollett after he allowed Thursday's deadline to pass without any payments to the city.
Geragos said the proposed lawsuit was an example of authorities trying “to get a second bite at the apple” despite the fact that prosecutors dismissed charges against Smollett.
He argued that Smollett couldn’t be sued by the city under a municipal ordinance that bars people from lying to authorities because it would constitute double jeopardy. He added that if authorities decide to pursue the case against Smollett, the actor’s legal team will demand sworn testimony from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the police chief, and others.
Original report: Smollett was arrested in February after authorities said he faked a racist, homophobic attack against himself in downtown Chicago earlier in the year. Prosecutors abruptly dropped the case last month.
The actor had told officers he was confronted in the predawn hours Jan. 29 by a pair of men who yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, hit him in the face, poured an unknown substance on him and wrapped a rope around his neck.
Smollett has denied faking the attack. Since charges were dropped against Smollett, police and prosecutors have said they still believe Smollett is guilty.
“Over two dozen detectives and police officers participated in the investigation, ultimately spending weeks investigating your false claims, including a substantial number of overtime hours,” officials told Smollett in the letter from Chicago’s Department of Law to Smollett. “Ultimately, the Chicago police investigation revealed that you knowingly filed a false police report and had in fact orchestrated your own attack.”
Authorities said if Smollett failed to repay the city, officials could pursue a charge of making a false statement to the city. He could also face a civil suit from Chicago officials, The Associated Press reported.