Jussie Smollett, the former star of the Fox television show Empire, is back in the headlines. Not for allegedly being the victim of a racism-fueled crime. Not for allegedly staging and faking a homophobic hate crime. No, Smollett, now on the ropes financially and out of work, is attempting to get a payday the old-fashioned way: Sue someone for the consequences of your own poor choices.
This week, Jussie filed a malicious prosecution counterclaim in federal court against the city of Chicago and a laundry list of city personnel and random others involved in the stunt the actor seemingly pulled on January 29, 2019: now-retired Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson, Detectives Michael Theis and Edward Wodnicki, and the Nigerian brothers and former friends of Smollett, Abimbola Osundairo and Olabinjo Osundairo.
In part, the counterclaim states:
“As a proximate result of the wrongful conduct engaged in by Counterclaim-Defendants, Mr. Smollett has suffered and continues to suffer substantial economic damages as well as reputational harm, humiliation, mental anguish and extreme emotional distress in an amount according to proof at trial.”
The counterclaim is in response to the city’s lawsuit against the actor. Chicago is seeking reimbursement for the $130,106 investigation the city conducted after Smollett’s allegedly false report that two white men in MAGA hats smacked him around and knotted a noose about his neck. In February, Smollett was arrested on 16 felony counts, including filing false report and perpetrating a hate crime. The charges were dropped when Prosecuting Attorney Kim Foxx cut a sweetheart deal: forfeiture of $10,000 bond and community service hours.
Smollett paid, Johnson and former Mayor Rahm Emanuel fumed, and a lawsuit was filed to recoup investigative resources.
What Does Jussie Want Now?
Smollett, it appears, has had a rough year. Producers of Empire suspended him without pay after hearing the alleged hoax was perpetrated as a ruse to get more money per episode. Now Smollett’s fallout with the Fox Network is apparently keeping offers for work off the table.
Jussie’s counterclaim asks for the $130,106 to be dismissed and that he be given compensatory and punitive damages and “all other relief the Court deems just and proper.” Smollett is rolling the dice. A jury of his peers in Chicago, the city where he allegedly committed a crime for attention, may not be in his best interest. But perhaps the threat of a trial may force the city of Chicago to drop its lawsuit. Either way, Jussie isn’t willing to pay and go away.
The Osundairo brothers have their own attorney and are speaking out against the counterclaim:
“This is just another sad attempt by Jussie Smollett to try and falsely smear the Osundairo brothers, the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department. There is no legal merit to his claims and could be sanctionable. The Chicago brothers were open and honest with the Chicago Police Department, testified under oath in front of a Grand Jury, and stand ready to do so again, in open court, if and when called upon to do so.”
Perhaps Jussie has no other options but to attempt to find a windfall by suing the Windy City. In a situation that concluded with a slap on the wrist in May, Smollett’s continual fist swinging in a losing battle seems exhausting and counterproductive.
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.