A city of Chicago deadline loomed on Thursday for Jussie Smollett to pay more than $130,000 to reimburse the costs of investigating what city authorities say was a staged racist, anti-gay attack or risk getting slapped with a civil lawsuit.
Thursday was seven days since Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s law chief sent the “Empire” actor a letter demanding the payment by money order or cashier’s check for $130,106 — plus 15 cents — but there was no indication Smollett has paid or intends to.
The March 28 letter said he must pay within seven days. But it didn’t mention if the deadline was midnight or earlier in the day, or if the time period to pay could be extended. It also didn’t specify a response if he didn’t.
The letter was sent days after the Cook County state’s attorney’s office dropped all 16 felony charges accusing Smollett, who is black and gay, of orchestrating the Jan. 29 attack. The surprise decision angered Emanuel and Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.
Nonpayment will likely lead the city to sue Smollett, prompting a civil trial where the threshold for proving he staged the incident will be lower than in criminal court. Smollett could also be required to sit for depositions, forcing him explain evidence that suggests he lied.
A spokeswoman for Smollett’s legal team didn’t have an immediate comment on Thursday. As the city raised the issue last week Smollett footing part of the bill for overtime worked by detectives and officers who looked into the actor’s claim, his lawyers released a statement saying it is city officials “who owe” Smollett “an apology” and that “Jussie has paid enough.”
Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot, who will be sworn in as Chicago’s mayor on May 20, could reverse any legal action Emanuel’s law office takes against Smollett in coming weeks. Lightfoot will become Chicago’s first black female mayor.
Lightfoot, a former federal prosecutor, said during a pre-election debate that “the public has to have answers as to why these charges were dismissed.” But she hasn’t detailed any action she might take as mayor regarding Smollett.
The handling of the Smollett case and her sometimes muddled, contradictory defense of the decision to dismiss all charges has put Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx on the hot seat .
Suburban Chicago police associations have added their criticism. Chicago’s WLS-TV reports that three associations representing suburban police chiefs voted to express “no confidence” in Foxx. Several police chiefs were set to hold a joint news conference with Chicago police union leaders later Thursday.
Foxx recused herself even before Smollett was charged in February. But she defended a decision by her office last week to drop all 16 felony counts against Smollett, saying money was better spent on more serious crimes.
WLS cited a letter from the North Suburban Chiefs of Police saying Foxx displayed a tendency to not pursue prosecutions of lower-level felonies.
Foxx’s office told WLS the criticism was “an excuse to justify” wider resistance to “prioritizing resources to increase public safety and reduce harm.”
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Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.