Jussie Smollett Won't be 'Intimidated' into Reimbursing City, Lawyer Says
Attorney Mark Geragos says city attempts at reimbursement is in bad faith
Mark Geragos, one of the lawyers representing Jussie Smollett, says demands for the Empire actor to reimburse the city of Chicago more than $130,000 incurred as police investigated an alleged hate crime against Smollett were made “maliciously and in bad faith.”
“Mr. Smollett will not be intimidated into paying the demanded sum,” Geragos wrote in a letter dated April 4, which was obtained by PEOPLE. “Mr. Smollett vehemently denies making any false statements.”
In the letter addressed to the city’s department of law, Geragos said that if the city takes civil action against Smollett for “repayment of investigation costs,” he would demand sworn depositions from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Both men have publicly criticized the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for dropping charges against Smollett that alleged he lied about the attack, with Emanuel calling the decision “an unbelievable whitewash of justice.”
“In light of their vested interest in the matter, we are confident that Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent Johnson will not object to providing their testimony under oath,” he wrote.
Geragos also wrote that he would demand depositions from Abimbola “Abel” Osundairo and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo, the two brothers who alleged to police that Smollett gave them money to fake the Jan. 29 attack on the actor, as well as their attorneys.
He also said he would ask for the legal proceedings to be open to the public and demand “the prompt production of the entire investigation file in this matter, including the full discovery from the criminal action which was never provided to the defense.”
Geragos’ letter comes just over a week after the city of Chicago demanded that Smollett pay $130,106.15 to reimburse overtime costs run up by the investigation before the charges were dropped. In a letter to Smollett obtained by PEOPLE, the city’s lead counsel contended that police concluded Smollett had made up the story “in which you falsely claimed that two men attacked you while yelling racial and homophobic slurs.”
“Over two dozen detective and police officers participated in the investigation, ultimately spending weeks investigating your false claims, including a substantial number of overtime hours,” it says. “Ultimately, the Chicago police investigation revealed that you knowingly filed a false report and had in fact orchestrated your own attack.”
The letter stated that if Smollett didn’t reimburse that cost, the city “may prosecute.”
On Thursday, in response to Geragos’ letter, the city’s legal counsel said they were in the process of drafting a civil complaint that would be filed “in the near future.”
“Mr. Smollett has refused to reimburse the City of Chicago for the cost of police overtime spent investigating his false police report on January 29, 2019,” Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “The Law Department is now drafting a civil complaint that will be filed in the Circuit Court of Cook Country. Once it is filed, the Law Department will send a courtesy copy of the complaint to Mr. Smollett’s Los Angeles-based legal team…As part of this legal action, the Law Department will pursue the full measure of damages allowed under the ordinance.”
Smollett, 36, had faced 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly fabricating details of an assault that occurred around 2 a.m. on Jan, 29 on a street in his Chicago neighborhood. The black, openly gay actor claimed the two masked men who attacked him hurled racist and homophobic insults, doused him with a chemical, and slipped a rope around his neck, which Smollett still had on when later interviewed by police.
Throughout the case, Smollett maintained his innocence. He previously pleaded not guilty to allegations that he lied to police.
When news of Smollett’s dropped charges was made public on March 26, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office told PEOPLE: “After reviewing all the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollett’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago, we believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case.”
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Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
On Friday, when asked if the city would file the civil lawsuit, Emanuel, who was attending a ribbon-cutting on a new REI store location along the north branch of the Chicago River, responded: “That is in the courts, that is not my focus; my focus is creating jobs and opportunity,” he said. “I am not focused on it at all, nor is the city.”