President Donald Trump tweeted the FBI will investigate the Jussie Smollett case, calling it “an embarrassment to our nation.”
CHICAGO — The city of Chicago will attempt to force “Empire” star Jussie Smollett to pay back $130,000 for the police investigation of what investigators and prosecutors say was a staged attack orchestrated by the actor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and city officials said Thursday.
Emanuel said police department officials are still assembling the costs of the investigation that began shortly after Smollett reported to police on Jan. 29 that he was the victim of a brutal attack by assailants who yelled racial and homophobic slurs as they beat him. The actor also told police that the assailants yelled “This is MAGA country” during the assault.
Smollett was charged with disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. But the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office abruptly announced on Tuesday that it was dropping its 16 count indictment against Smollett. As part of the deal, Smollett agreed to forfeit $10,000 in bond money he put up to secure his release from county jail after he was arrested last month.
Emanuel said after police tally the costs, the city’s corporation counsel will then send a bill to Smollett and his attorneys to try to recoup the money spent for the probe.
“When (Smollett) does pay the city back on just what the taxpayers have fronted, in that memo section (of the check), he can write, ‘I’m sorry and I’m accountable for what I’ve done,’” Emanuel said.
The amount that the city is trying to claw back represents how much the police department spent on overtime costs for officers detailed to the case.
“The Chicago Police Department conducted an extensive investigation into this report,” Chicago corporation counsel Ed Siskel says in the letter sent to Smollett’s legal team. “Over two dozen detectives and police officers participated in the investigation, ultimately spending weeks investigating the false claims, including a substantial number of overtime hours.”
The city says it can take take legal action under local ordinance if Smollett does not pay up, which Siskel warned could potentially lead to Smollett paying more than triple the $130,000 demand.
Smollett’s legal team pushed back against Emanuel’s assertion that the actor should pay for the probe.
“It is the Mayor and the Police Chief who owe Jussie – owe him an apology – for dragging an innocent man’s character through the mud. Jussie has paid enough,” the legal team said in a statement.
Smollett was classified as a victim by police for several weeks after the incident. Police eventually identified two men – brothers who had worked with Smollett on the set of “Empire” – that carried out the attack.
The brothers, Abel and Ola Osundairo, initially resisted speaking with investigators, but on the cusp of being charged in the incident told investigators that they worked with Smollett to stage the attack.
The brothers told detectives that Smollett was unhappy with his salary on the Fox television show and was hoping to bolster his profile through the attack, according to Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
Police and prosecutors said the brothers’ accounts were bolstered by bank records, phone records, text messages and other evidence recovered.
The move to drop the case was met by condemnation from police and Emanuel. The prosecutor’s office did not give the police officials or the mayor any forewarning that they were dropping the charges.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx and her first deputy, Joseph Magats, have defended the decision as a “just” resolution to the case. They’ve insisted that it did not amount to an exoneration of Smollett.
But Smollett’s legal team has in turn blasted the prosecutors and said they have “flip-flopped” on what they said in court when they formally dropped the charges against the actor.
Assistant State’s Attorney Risa Lanier told Judge Steven Watkins in the short hearing Tuesday where prosecutors formally dropped the charges.
“After reviewing the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the city of Chicago, the State’s motion in regards to the indictment is nolle pros,” said Lanier, using the legal term for dropping charges. “We believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case.”
Embattled prosecutor: Jussie Smollett legal team: Prosecutors flip-flopping on why they dropped charges
Emanuel said recovering the costs of the investigation will bring a measure of justice for Chicagoans who feel offended that prosecutors treated the actor with leniency that wouldn’t have been afforded to others charged with such a crime.
“I want clarity, I want accountability I want responsibility for a hoax that was committed,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel announced that the city would try to recover the costs of the investigation as President Donald Trump on Thursday announced the Justice Department and FBI would investigate the Smollett case.
The mayor, a Democrat who has frequently clashed with Trump over the last two years, said that president should “sit this one out.”
Emanuel said that Trump created an environment in which Smollett thought he could use to his advantage.
“Jussie Smollett thinks that hate-filled environment that the president created, pinning one American against another because of their background. … He thought he could take advantage of and create a hoax (through) a hate crime,” Emanuel said. “It’s a vicious toxic environment and cycle. I want to break it.”
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