Judge: Chicago can proceed with lawsuit against 'Empire' actor
Jussie Smollett has been sued for police overtime costs incurred while investigating faked racist attack
CHICAGO — A federal judge gave the go-ahead Tuesday to the city of Chicago’s lawsuit against Jussie Smollett that seeks reimbursement from the former “Empire” actor for some $130,000 in overtime incurred by police to investigate his alleged hoax attack in January.
In denying Smollett’s motion to dismiss, U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall said that on its face, Smollett’s claim that the police went overboard in investigating his report didn’t hold up.
“The natural, ordinary and reasonable consequence of a police report like this one — a racist, homophobic physical assault in which masked attackers invoked the President of the United States’ official campaign slogan — is an intensive, sprawling investigation like the one that took place,” Kendall wrote in an 18-page opinion made public Tuesday.
She also pointed out that Chicago police took the allegations seriously in large part because of Smollett’s high profile “and the extreme nature of the accusations.”
“Most crime victims do not have the opportunity to discuss the crime on ‘Good Morning America’,” Kendall wrote.
In moving to dismiss the suit, lawyers for Smollett had argued that the actor could never have foreseen that Chicago police would investigate his claims so thoroughly — and therefore he shouldn’t be stuck with the $130,000 overtime bill.
The attorneys said police investigations are a “discretionary function” of law enforcement and that there was no proof the damages allegedly incurred by the city were directly related to Smollett’s report — later determined by police to be a hoax.
“The filing of a police report, in and of itself, does not necessitate a sprawling investigation, nor does it, as a practical matter, usually result in an investigation as extensive as the one CPD chose to undertake in this case,” Smollett attorney William Quinlan wrote.
Following the judge’s decision, Smollett’s attorney issued a statement saying the actor “is eager” to have the complete facts of the case come out.
“He looks forward to taking depositions and otherwise bringing to light many of the facts that have been overlooked in the court of public opinion to date,” the statement read.
Kendall’s ruling sets the case on a path toward trial.
The city’s lawsuit is one of many legal fronts in Smollett’s case, which has made international news ever since Smollett claimed he was the victim of a brutal attack near his home in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood on Jan. 29. Smollett was eventually charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly lying to police. However, weeks later, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office abruptly dismissed the 16-count indictment with little public explanation.
Meanwhile, powerhouse attorney Dan Webb was appointed in August as a special prosecutor to look into the controversial handling of the case and whether any further criminal charges were warranted.
A separate investigation by the Cook County inspector general is also still underway.