Chicago sues Jussie Smollett over costs of police work despite dismissal of charges

CHICAGO — Outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration says it has gone to court to try to force Jussie Smollett to pay Chicago back for an alleged hate crime hoax even though Cook County prosecutors dropped all charges against the “Empire” actor.

The lawsuit, filed late Thursday in Circuit Court, comes after Smollett failed to pony up $130,106 by a deadline imposed by the city to cover the cost of the police overtime hours expended in the investigation into his allegations.

The upcoming battle in civil court promises in many ways to mirror the criminal charges against Smollett that were abruptly dismissed by prosecutors last month. Both center on the same question: Did Smollett stage a physical assault on himself, claiming his attackers shouted racial and homophobic slurs?

The suit did not specify the damages that the city will seek, but the city said that more than two dozen Chicago police officers and detectives worked a combined 1,836 hours of overtime over at least two weeks while investigating Smollett’s claims.

A defiant letter sent last week by Smollett’s lawyer warned the city against suing him, saying the actor “will not be intimidated into paying the demanded sum.”

In a brief statement issued Thursday, the city’s Law Department said the lawsuit against Smollett “pursues the full measure of damages allowed under the city’s ordinance forbidding false statements. The city declined further comment.

— Chicago Tribune

Ohio governor signs ‘heartbeat’ abortion bill

COLUMBUS, Ohio — After a nearly 10-year battle in the Ohio Statehouse, Gov. Mike DeWine signed the heartbeat abortion ban into law Thursday, which is sure to spark a constitutional challenge in federal court.

The new law is nearly a complete ban: making it a felony for doctors to perform abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks gestation before women know they are pregnant. It has no exception for cases of rape or incest.

Over the past 15 years, anti-abortion groups have successfully lobbied for more restrictions to the procedure, including a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, requirements that clinics have emergency transfer agreements with local hospitals and mandated ultrasounds before the procedure.

Even before DeWine put his signature on the bill, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio promised to file suit against the measure on behalf of abortion providers.

Similar lawsuits in Iowa, Kentucky, Arkansas and North Dakota have led the courts to strike down similar heartbeat abortion ban laws, according to the civil liberties group.

— Dayton Daily News

Navy drops criminal charges against officers involved in USS Fitzgerald collision

Two former officers involved in the June 2017 collision between the USS Fitzgerald and a commercial ship off the coast of Japan will no longer face criminal charges, the Navy has announced.

“This decision is in the best interest of the Navy, the families of the Fitzgerald Sailors, and the procedural rights of the accused officers,” the Navy said in a news release late Wednesday. “Both officers were previously dismissed from their jobs and received nonjudicial punishment.”

Former commanding officer Cmdr. Bryce Benson was sleeping in his quarters the night of the collision, while former crew member Lt. Natalie Combs was manning the ship’s Combat Information Center.

Both had been charged with negligent hazarding a vessel and dereliction of duty resulting in death; the Navy dropped the negligent homicide charges last year.

Two other officers were also charged in the collision, which killed seven U.S. sailors.

— New York Daily News

Former Obama aide Greg Craig is charged over work with Manafort

WASHINGTON — Gregory Craig, a prominent corporate lawyer and former adviser to Democratic presidents, was indicted by a U.S. grand jury in Washington, accused of making false statements and concealing information about his firm’s work on behalf of Ukraine.

Craig’s former firm, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, in January paid $4.6 million and agreed to register as a lobbyist for a foreign government after admitting that it should have done so earlier for work it did with Paul Manafort to benefit Ukraine.

The charges are the first against a high-profile Democrat to emerge from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. Craig defended President Bill Clinton against impeachment and was the first White House counsel under President Barack Obama.

Craig made his false statements to a Justice Department unit investigating lobbyists’ work for foreign governments, prosecutors said. He faces as long as five years in prison for each of the two counts against him.

Late Thursday, after reports that Craig would be charged, his lawyer released a statement saying that U.S. prosecutors in New York had looked at Craig’s overseas work and “that office decided not to pursue charges.”

—Bloomberg News

Sudan military ousts President al-Bashir, who took power in his own coup nearly 30 years ago

BEIRUT — Sudan’s military ousted and arrested President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday, delivering the deathblow to the authoritarian’s nearly 30-year rule following months of intense protests.

Sudanese Defense Minister Awad ibn Ouf went on state television to declare “the uprooting of this regime,” saying the government, presidency and parliament were dissolved.

A military council will oversee a two-year transition period while suspending the constitution, he said. It will declare a three-month state of emergency and a one-month curfew of 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., he said. Sudan’s airspace was to be closed for 24 hours and its land and sea borders shut “until further notice,” ibn Ouf added.

Ibn Ouf did not disclose al-Bashir’s whereabouts or those of his allies, including officials and ministers who had been rounded up. The ousted president, he said, was being held “in a safe location.”

Security services, he said, had long been keeping track of the “mismanagement, corruption and absence of justice” in state institutions, as well as “the poor economic conditions” and “lack of hope.”

The government’s “false promises” had forced the army’s hand, he said.

Al-Bashir, 75, first came to power in a bloodless 1989 military coup.

Over the next decades, he would weather several bouts of protests and become an occasional pariah for harboring figures as disparate as Carlos the Jackal and Osama bin Laden. The U.S. in 1993 designated Sudan a state sponsor of terrorism.

—Los Angeles Times