CHICAGO — Charges against “Empire” star Jussie Smollett may have been dropped, but the ongoing saga between the actor and the city’s mayor and police department is not over yet.
In a letter sent to Smollett Thursday, city attorney Edward Siskel asked the actor to reimburse the city for money spent investigating an alleged hate crime that the actor said took place January 29 in Streeterville.
“Over two dozen detectives and police officers participated in the investigation, ultimately spending weeks investigating your false claims, including a substantial amount of overtime hours,” the letter reads.
How much overtime? $130,106.15 worth, the city says.
“The city feels this is a reasonable and legally justifiable amount to collect to help offset the [cost of the investigation],” Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said, adding that the city has a lengthy track record of recovering funds spent on false police report claims.
McCaffrey pointed to the 2011 case of Gary Hunninghake, 64, who claimed he was robbed and stabbed along the Riverwalk. It turned out that Hunninghake made the whole thing up, and the city was able to recover the money spent on the investigation.
Hunninghake, however, admitted he made up the attack — something Smollett has not done. In an interview with WGN Radio, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said taxpayers deserve an admission of guilt — but getting him to pay up is better than nothing.
“It is a small way of both acknowledging, one, guilt, two, that we spent these resources and the taxpayers deserve, at minimum — because I think there’s a whole other level of ethical costs, because he’s still walking around, ‘Hey, I’m innocent, everything I said from day one is true’ — that actually we’re going to get the resources back,” Emanuel said.
In a statement to the Tribune, the actor’s attorney said Emanuel and police Supt. Eddie Johnson owe Smollett an apology.
“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,” the statement read. “Jussie has paid enough.”
The decision to drop the charges against Smollett — in exchange for performing several hours of community service and forfeiting $10,000 to the city — was criticized by Emanuel and Johnson, and the police union called for State’s Attorney Kim Foxx to be investigated by federal authorities over the handling of the case.
Foxx defended her office’s handing of the case and said she was frustrated by the attention the Smollett case received — especially given the other cases her office is dealing with.
While Smollett maintained his innocence on Tuesday, Foxx’s office has been consistent in saying the actor made up the attack.
“I do not believe he is innocent,” Joseph Magats, first assistant Cook County state’s attorney, told CBS2 on Tuesday. Magats was the lead prosecutor in the case. “Based on all facts and circumstances of the case, and also keeping in mind resources and keeping in mind that the office’s No. 1 priority is to combat violent crime and the drivers of violence, I decided to offer this disposition in the case.”
Police and prosecutors said Smollett paid $3,500 to two brothers to pretend to attack him in Streeterville. The men, who were later interviewed by police, punched Smollett “a little bit” and the actor “self-inflicted” cuts and scratches on his face as part of the alleged ruse, Johnson said at the time.
After the alleged attack, Smollett told police he’d been beaten by two men who yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, put a noose around his neck and threw a liquid on him.
Smollett reportedly told investigators that his attackers called him “‘Empire’ f—–” and “‘Empire’ n—–,” and told him Chicago was “MAGA” territory.
But within weeks police said the attack had not actually occurred. Smollett was charged and written out from the last episodes of “Empire’s” latest season.
In the letter sent Thursday, Smollett is told to pay up by April 4 or the city “may prosecute you for making a false statement to the city.”
McCaffrey said his office was not committing to a lawsuit at this time, however.