Jussie Smollett’s legal team has responded to the City of Chicago’s threats to sue the Empire actor after he failed to pay a bill that would reimburse the police department for its hate crime investigation, the Chicago Tribune reports.
All charges were dropped last week against Smollett, who had been indicted by a Chicago grand jury on 16 felony counts for allegedly staging his own attack and lying to police.
Chicago officials later announced their plan to draft a civil lawsuit against Smollett for about $130,000, the cost of overtime spent investigating what they call a “false police report” filed by the actor.
The city’s Department of Law then sent Smollett a bill for $130,106.15. The deadline for this payment expired Thursday afternoon, after which the lawsuit was threatened.
Smollett’s legal team has cautioned the city against suing their client, insisting that he “will not be intimidated into paying the demanded sum.”
The lawyers also warn that if the city does sue, they would then insist on viewing all evidence and questioning key players in the criminal case, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
“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,” celebrity attorney Mark Geragos writes. “Mr. Smollett’s preference remains, however, that this matter be closed and that he be allowed to move on with his life.”
Smollett’s defense team previously responded to the reimbursement request by insisting that Emanuel and Johnson owed Smollett an apology “for dragging an innocent man’s character through the mud,” adding that “Jussie has paid enough.”
Smollett, 36, who plays gay performer Jamal Lyon on the Fox drama Empire, reported January 29 that he was brutally attacked in Chicago by two masked assailants using racist and homophobic slurs. They also allegedly tied rope around the out actor’s neck and poured bleach on him.
Brothers Olabinjo “Ola” and Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo, questioned by police as suspects but released without charges, “shifted the trajectory of the investigation” by providing evidence that they had been paid $3,500 by the actor to help orchestrate the assault.
Despite Chicago PD’s initial claims that Smollett may have organized the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary” on Empire, he and his lawyers have maintained his innocence. His attorneys released a statement denouncing Chicago officials for “an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system.”
After all charges against Smollett were unexpectedly dropped, President Donald Trump tweeted that federal officials will investigate the case.