Chicago is suing Empire actor Jussie Smollett to recover the costs of investigating a hate crime attack that police say he made up.
The lawsuit that was filed Thursday says police worked over 1,800 hours of overtime investigating the case at a total cost of about $130,000. Chicago ordinance allows the city to demand Smollett pay triple that amount in damages.
The suit comes after Smollett refused a demand that he send the city $130,106 to reimburse Chicago for overtime work as police sought to verify Smollett’s account.
Smollett, who is black and gay, reported that two men assaulted him on the city’s North Side in January, using racial and homophobic slurs.
Smollett was charged with multiple felonies for allegedly staging the attack.
But in an abrupt turn, Cook County prosecutors dropped all charges a few weeks ago.
Instead, Smollett received an “alternative prosecution” deal that only required him to do brief community service and forfeit his $10,000 bond.
Smollett maintains he has told the truth from the beginning.
Reached by phone Thursday evening, a spokeswoman for Smollett’s legal team said there wasn’t an immediate comment on the lawsuit. Smollett’s lawyers would have to respond with a court filing and could move in coming weeks to have the lawsuit thrown out.
Smollett lawyer Mark Geragos said in a letter to the city last week that claims Smollett made the entire thing up were “defamatory,” accusing Chicago of trying to “harass” Smollett and pointing to the dismissal of charges as proof he is innocent. It also said Smollett wouldn’t be “intimidated” into paying anything.
Unless the case is settled beforehand, the lawsuit would eventually go before a jury, which would have to decide if the city or Smollett is right.
If Smollett still refuses to pay after a verdict in the city’s favor, his bank accounts could be frozen.
The Associated Press contributed.