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Jussie Smollett Sues Chicago for ‘Malicious Prosecution’ in Hate Crime Case

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  • After dropping charges against actor Jussie Smollett for making false reports about a hate crime allegedly committed against him, the city of Chicago sued Smollett, demanding he cover the cost of the investigation.
  • The suit specifically asked for over $130,000 to cover overtime paid to officers on his case. 
  • Now Smollett has countersued, saying he should not have to pay since he already agreed to forfeit his $10,000 bond and accusing the city of “malicious prosecution” that brought him humiliation and emotional distress. 

Jussie Smollet’s Hate Crime Case 

Former Empire actor Jussie Smollet is suing Chicago for “malicious prosecution” and says he should not have to reimburse the city for the cost of the investigation into his hate crime claims.

Smollett made headlines in January when he said two masked men looped a noose around his neck, poured bleach on him, and yelled homophobic and racist slurs.  But after an investigation, Chicago police determined that the attack was staged by Smollett, who was then indicted on 16 felony counts of filing a false report. 

Smollett has maintained his innocence and prosecutors eventually dropped the charges against him in March, after he agreed to complete community service and forfeit the $10,000 bond he paid following his arrest. 

Now his lawyers are using that as a defense for why he should not have to pay for the cost of the investigation.

Smollett’s Counterclaim 

Smollett’s lawyers filed a two-count counterclaim against Chicago on Tuesday in response to its April lawsuit demanding that he pay over $130,000 to cover the 1,836 hours of overtime paid to police officers working his case. 

In the city’s lawsuit, it said it also intended to seek attorneys’ fees and a civil penalty of $1,000 for each of his false claims. However, Smollett’s legal team says the city “is not entitled” to any of this.

Smollett’s lawyers argued the city should not be allowed to hold him liable for the cost because it accepted the $10,000 from the actor “as payment in full in connection with the dismissal of the charges against him.”

The counterclaim adds, “The City cannot seek additional recovery from Mr. Smollett under the doctrine of accord and satisfaction.”

His attorneys also accused the city of “malicious prosecution,”  saying that Smollett suffered “humiliation, mental anguish, and extreme emotional distress” as a result of the city’s actions against him.

The claim specifically called out Chicago Police Department Superintendent Eddie Johnson and two other detectives, Edward Wodnicki and Michael Theis. The counterclaim says police released “false and misleading information,” which led media outlets to report that Smollett might have arranged the alleged attack.  

It also criticized the city for using claims from the Osundairo brothers, the men Smollett was accused of paying to carry out the alleged attack, to pursue criminal charges against him.

In response to the countersuit, Chicago police issued a statement Wednesday saying “The City stands by its original complaint and will continue to pursue this litigation.”

The city added, “The judge in this case has already ruled in our favor once, and we fully expect to be successful in defeating these counterclaims.”

Kim Foxx Announces Reelection Effort 

The same day as Smollet’s counterclaim, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx officially announced that she is running for reelection. Foxx currently has four challengers fighting for her spot and has the outrage over the Jussie Smollett case hanging over her head. 

Foxx recused herself from the case before Smollett’s arrest, saying she did so because she had conversations about the investigation with one of Smollett’s relatives. But a few months later, her office released documents citing a different reason, showing that she was advised to withdraw based on unfounded rumors that she was related to Smollett. Though she disagreed with the advice and called the rumors racist, she complied with the recommendation. 

Foxx’s office also faced intense scrutiny for abruptly dropping the charges against Smollett, which left both police officials and community leaders confused and frustrated. 

At the time, Chicago Police Department commander Ed Wodnicki called the reversal of charges a “punch in the gut” and said prosecutors did not discuss their decision with the police department prior to announcing it. 

Meanwhile, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel and superintendent Johnson spoke out against the decision. “This is without a doubt, a whitewash of justice and sends a clear message that if you are in a position of influence and power you’ll get treated one way, other people will be treated another way,” Emanuel said.

In her campaign ad, she admitted to mishandling the Smollett case but argued that her opponents are attacking her personally over it to “undercut progress.” 

 “Truth is, I didn’t handle it well. I own that. I’m making changes in my office to make sure we do better. That’s what reform is about,” Foxx said.

But her opponents say it’s too late, and many believe the lack of trust surrounding Foxx’s leadership will affect her in her bid for reelection. 

See what others are saying: (Fox News) (The Washington Post) (Chicago Sun-Times

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New COVID-19 Variant Could Become Dominant in the U.S. by March, CDC Warns

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  • The CDC warned Friday that a new highly transmissible COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.
  • The strain was first reported in the United Kingdom in December and is now in at least 10 states.
  • The CDC used a modeled trajectory to discover how quickly the variant could spread in the U.S. and said that this could threaten the country’s already overwhelmed healthcare system.

CDC Issues Warning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the new COVID-19 variant could become the predominant variant in the United States by March.

While it is not known to be more deadly, it does spread at a higher rate, which is troubling considering the condition the U.S. is already in. Cases and deaths are already on the rise in nearly every state and globally, 2 million lives have been lost to the coronavirus. 

The variant was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid-December. It is now in 30 countries, including the U.S., where cases have been located in at least ten states. Right now, only 76 cases of this variant have been confirmed in the U.S., but experts believe that number is likely much higher and said it will increase significantly in the coming weeks. It is already a dominant strain in parts of the U.K.

Modeled trajectory shows that growth in the U.S. could be so fast that it dominates U.S. cases just three months into the new year. This could pose a huge threat to our already strained healthcare system.

Mitigating Spread of Variant

“I want to stress that we are deeply concerned that this strain is more transmissible and can accelerate outbreaks in the U.S. in the coming weeks,” said Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC told the New York Times. “We’re sounding the alarm and urging people to realize the pandemic is not over and in no way is it time to throw in the towel.”

The CDC advises that health officials use this time to limit spread and increase vaccination as much as possible in order to mitigate the impact this variant will have. Experts believe that current vaccines will protect against this strain.

“Effective public health measures, including vaccination, physical distancing, use of masks, hand hygiene, and isolation and quarantine, will be essential,” the CDC said in their report.

“Strategic testing of persons without symptoms but at higher risk of infection, such as those exposed to SARS-CoV-2 or who have frequent unavoidable contact with the public, provides another opportunity to limit ongoing spread.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (New York Times) (NBC News)

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Former Michigan Gov. and 8 Others Charged Over Flint Water Crisis

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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. (Al Goldis/AP)

  • Ex-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty Wednesday for his role in the Flint water crisis
  • By Thursday, eight more former state and city officials were charged with crimes ranging from involuntary manslaughter to extortion.
  • Flint residents have long awaited this news. In 2019, prosecutors dropped all criminal charges against 15 officials and said they would start the investigation from scratch, citing concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

Rick Snyder Charges

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said Thursday that it had filed 41 charges against nine former state and city officials for their role in the Flint water crisis.

The most high-profile figure to be charged was former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. On Wednesday, he was hit with two counts of willful neglect of duty.

He was the state’s top executive when local officials decided to switch the city’s drinking water source to the Flint River in 2014.

The switch was supposed to be a temporary cost-saving measure while a pipeline was being built to Lake Huron. However, the water wasn’t treated properly for corrosion, so lead-contaminated water was released into the homes of people all over the city. Because of that, 12 people died and at least 90 were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease.

Snyder appeared in court this morning via Zoom, pleading not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges. If convicted he could face up to a year in prison and as much as a $1,000 fine.

His charges alone are significant because they make him the first governor or former governor in the state to ever be charged with a crime for alleged conduct while in office.

8 Others Charged

Along with Snyder, eight others were charged, including a former state health director Nick Lyon. Lyon received nine charges of involuntary manslaughter, among others.

Richard Baird, one of Snyder’s closes advisors was changed for extortion, perjury, and obstructions of justice. Others who were charged include:

  • Jarrod Agen, Snyder’s former chief of staff and Vice President Mike Pence’s former communications director.
  • Dr. Eden Wells, a former chief medical executive for the state Department of Health and Human Services. 
  • Darnell Earley, former Flint finance director and state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Gerald Ambrose, former state-appointed emergency manager.
  • Howard Croft, former Flint Public Works Director.
  • Nancy Peeler, the state’s director of maternal, infant and early childhood home visiting for the health department.

Flint residents have waited a long time for justice over the water contamination issue. Prosecutors previously dropped all 15 criminal charges tied to the Flint case in 2019 and said the investigation would begin again from scratch.

At the time, they cited concerns about how the special counsel had conducted its probe.

It also wasn’t until last year that the state reached a $600 million settlement with victims, establishing a fund from which residents can file for compensation.

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Detroit News) (Detroit Free Press)

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Three Lawmakers Test Positive for COVID-19 Following Capitol Attack

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  • At least three Congressmembers have tested positive for COVID-19 following Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 
  • Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) believe they contracted the virus after locking down in close quarters with numerous Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks.
  • Jayapal and Schneider are calling for those who did not wear a mask to face consequences.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman Tests Positive

At least three members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 after locking down in close quarters with other House members during Wednesday’s pro-Trump attack on the Capitol. 

Congress’ attending physician, Brian Monahan, warned that members may have been exposed during the lockdown. He recommended that everyone who was isolated inside should get tested for the virus. 

On Monday Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) became the first to announce that she tested positive. Watson Coleman believes she was exposed while in the Capitol lockdown. In her statement, she cited the multiple Republicans who refused to wear masks while inside. Video footage from Punchbowl News shows a Democratic lawmaker handing out masks and a handful of Republicans declining to take one. 

Watson Coleman is a 75-year-old lung cancer survivor. While she said she is only experiencing cold-like symptoms, she tweeted that per a doctor’s suggestion, she headed to a local hospital for antibody treatment. She also encouraged those who sheltered in place to get tested. 

More Cases Follow

Later on Monday, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said she too had tested positive, also blaming a lack of mask-wearing in the Capitol. In a lengthy Twitter thread, she said Republicans created a superspreader event and demanded consequences for their actions. 

Many Republicans still refused to take the bare minimum COVID-19 precaution and simply wear a damn mask in a crowded room during a pandemic—creating a superspreader event ON TOP of a domestic terrorist attack,” she wrote. 

“Any Member who refuses to wear a mask should be fully held accountable,” Jayapal added. 

“I’m calling for every single Member who refuses to wear a mask in the Capitol to be fined and removed from the floor by the Sergeant at Arms.”

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) echoed her frustrations on Tuesday after releasing a statement saying he has become the third House member to have tested positive following the lockdown. 

“Today, I am now in strict isolation, worried that I have risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-maskers who put their own contempt and disregard for decency ahead of the health and safety of their colleagues and our staff,” he wrote.

Like Jayapal, he is calling for sanctions against those who opted to not wear masks. 

Many health officials feared that this lockdown could lead to a surge in cases. They also worry that the mob itself could lead to a superspreader event as most of those who attacked the Capitol were not wearing masks and were crowding together both inside and outside of the building.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (NBC Chicago)

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