‘Your claim that Smollett filed a false police report and orchestrated his own attack is false and defamatory…’
(Megan Crepeau, Chicago Tribune) If the city of Chicago follows through on threats to sue Jussie Smollett, the “Empire” actor’s attorneys would insist on deposing Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson and other key players in the whirlwind legal saga, according to a letter from Smollett’s legal team obtained by the Chicago Tribune.
“In light of their apparent vested interest in the matter, we are confident that Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent Johnson will not object to providing their testimony under oath,” attorney Mark Geragos states in the letter, which was addressed to the city’s corporation counsel and dated Thursday.
“Mr. Smollett’s preference remains, however, that this matter be closed and that he be allowed to move on with his life.”
A civil suit would be the latest legal problem for Smollett, who found himself at the center of an international media firestorm this year when he was accused of staging a racist and homophobic attack on himself.
Smollett was charged with 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct — but in a surprise hearing last week, Cook County prosecutors abruptly dropped all charges against him, sparking furious public backlash from Johnson and Emanuel.
The city notified Smollett’s attorneys by letter two days later of its demand that he pay $130,106 — the cost of the police overtime hours expended in the investigation into his allegations. The letter warned that if Smollett did not pay by Thursday, the city may sue.
In response, Geragos wrote that Smollett, “will not be intimidated into paying the demanded sum.”
“Mr. Smollett vehemently denies making any false statements,” the letter reads, echoing the actor’s public assertions of innocence last week after charges were dropped. “Your claim that Smollett filed a false police report and orchestrated his own attack is false and defamatory.”
If the city files suit, the letter states, Smollett’s attorneys would demand to see all the evidence from the criminal case, including that which was not turned over to the defense before charges were dropped, and the legal team would ask that all records and legal proceedings be open to the public.
Apart from Emanuel and Johnson, the defense also would want sworn testimony from the two brothers who told authorities they helped Smollett stage the attack, as well as their attorney and her husband.
The letter from Geragos apparently prompted the public statement from the city Thursday evening confirming that the Law Department was drafting a civil suit to be filed in county court.
“Mr. Smollett has refused to reimburse the City of Chicago for the cost of police overtime spent investigating his false police report on January 29, 2019. The Law Department is now drafting a civil complaint that will be filed in the Circuit Court of Cook Country,” Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said in a statement Thursday. “Once it is filed, the Law Department will send a courtesy copy of the complaint to Mr. Smollett’s Los Angeles-based legal team.”
Attorneys plan to pursue “the full measure of damages” allowed by city law, according to McCaffrey’s statement.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office spurred an intense controversy last week when prosecutors abruptly dropped charges against Smollett.
Prosecutors at first insisted the case against the actor was solid, then backpedaled in a Tribune op-ed by Foxx, who said unspecified aspects of the evidence would have made a conviction “uncertain.”
The unusual move caught Chicago police brass by surprise and brought swift condemnation from Emanuel, who called it a “whitewash of justice.”
Smollett, who is African-American and openly gay, has said he was walking from a Subway sandwich shop to his apartment in the 300 block of East North Water Street about 2 a.m. Jan. 29 when two men walked up, yelled racial and homophobic slurs, hit him and wrapped a noose around his neck. Smollett said they also poured a bleach-like substance on him and yelled, “This is MAGA country,” in reference to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
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