Judge allows Chicago lawsuit against actor Jussie Smollett to proceed

By Don Babwin, Associated Press

A US judge has refused to dismiss Chicago’s lawsuit against former Empire actor Jussie Smollett.

US District Judge Virginia Kendall’s ruling means the city can proceed with the suit which seeks to recoup 130,000 dollars (£100,000) that city officials say the police department spent investigating Smollett’s claim that he had been a victim of a racist and homophobic attack.

The motion by his lawyers was a long shot because their argument boiled down to the contention that Smollett should not be required to reimburse the police department because he could not have known how much time and money would be spent investigating his allegations.

The police investigation included nearly 1,900 hours of overtime as officers looked into Smollett’s claim that he was beaten by two masked men on a central Chicago street in January and that they used racist and homophobic slurs and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing.

For days, detectives scoured the neighbourhood for witnesses, analysed dozens of videos from surveillance cameras on the street, on buildings and inside taxis, and interviewed store owners in search of who might have sold the suspects the rope.

When Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson announced charges against Smollett, he angrily made clear the stakes of the investigation and why it was so important that police solve the case, saying Smollett “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career”.

In March, Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx’s office announced a stunning decision to drop the 16 felony counts related to making a false report, which angered Mr Johnson and then-mayor Rahm Emanuel and led to the city’s lawsuit against Smollett and to a county judge’s decision to appoint a special prosecutor to examine the way Ms Foxx’s office handled the investigation.

Although Smollett has maintained his innocence, the police department is adamant there is a mountain of evidence that shows he staged the attack with two brothers he knew.

With the appointment of the special prosecutor, there remains the possibility that Smollett could be charged again with staging the attack.