Chicago’s effort to make former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett pay a six-figure civil fine for allegedly wasting police time on an alleged hoax hate-crime claim survived Tuesday, after a federal judge denied Smollett’s motion to dismiss, according to The Associated Press.
Smollett’s lawyers sought to have the lawsuit thrown out on multiple grounds, including that Smollett himself did not direct Chicago police to spend weeks investigating his claim and could not have known how much time and money would be spent.
In ruling, U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall said that if someone falsely claimed a racist and homophobic attack, it isn’t unreasonable to think the Chicago police wouldn’t spend the hours necessary to investigate it.
Judge Kendall denies #JussieSmollett lawyers request to dismiss the case. Saying, if someone was going to falsely claim a racist and homophobic attack, it isn’t unreasonable to think the @Chicago_Police wouldn’t spend the hours necessary to investigate it. Moving to discovery. https://t.co/Qv6t9GwioL
— Rafer Weigel (@RaferWeigel) October 22, 2019
The ruling allows the lawsuit to proceed and the case moves to the discovery phase. It could go to a civil trial by 2020.
Smollett claimed he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack in downtown Chicago in January. But after several weeks of investigation, Chicago police claimed that he made the whole thing up, hiring two brothers to pretend-attack him in order to boost his profile and paycheck on “Empire.”
He was indicted on 16 felony counts of filing a false police report, but prosecutors in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office abruptly dropped the charges, to the surprise and loud fury of practically everybody, including the city’s mayor, police chief, police unions, judges, and other state prosecutors.
Smollett continues to insist he is innocent and was exonerated. Earlier this month, he posted a comment on Instagram responding after comparisons were made on social media between Smollett and a 12-year-old Virginia girl whose family admitted she made up her claim that white students held her down and cut her dreadlocks.
“With all due respect brother, y’all can clown me all you want but my story has actually never changed and I haven’t lied about a thing,” Smollett wrote on the post. “Y’all can continue to be misinformed, internalized sheep, who believe what actual proven liars feed you or you can read the actual docs. Either way, Imma be alright. I know me and what happened. You don’t. So carry on. All Love.”
But State’s Attorney Kim Foxx rejected Smollett’s assertion he was exonerated. She said saying dismissing the charges and imposing a $10,000 fine on Smollett was in line with how similar cases involving first-time offenders had been handled in the past.
(Foxx is now being investigated by an independent special prosecutor for her handling of the Smollett case.)
Meanwhile, the city of Chicago went to state court in April to sue Smollett to recoup the cost in police overtime – set at $130,000 – in investigating his original claims.
The lawsuit was later moved to federal court after Smollett’s attorneys argued that is the proper venue because Smollett, who lived in Chicago while filming “Empire,” is actually a California resident.
“Empire” is in its sixth and final season, and Smollett lost his role on the show shortly after the scandal hit headlines.
The city sued Smollett in civil court under a municipal code that allows the city to impose fines on people who make “false statements” to authorities, thus wasting time and money. If it prevails, the city could collect up to three times the amount of damages the city sustains as a result of the violation – in Smollett’s case, that would be $390,000.
Smollett’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, responded to the city’s suit with defiance. In court documents he called the city’s stance “unconstitutional,” “malicious,” “false and defamatory,” harassment and a violation of “double jeopardy” bans.
— USA TODAY