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Chicago Mayor Says City Will Send Smollett Bill for Investigation

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the city plans to send a bill to “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett for the cost of the investigation into his report of an alleged hate crime attack earlier this year. 

Emanuel, who has bashed prosecutors’ decision to drop charges against Smollett in exchange for community service and his $10,000 bond, told reporters Thursday he expects to ask Smollett and his legal team to write a check.

“The police are assembling the cost [of the investigation],” Emanuel said. “They’ll do that and then the corporation counsel of the city of Chicago will communicate to Jussie Smollett and his legal team about recouping that cost in that effort. And, given that he doesn’t feel any sense of contrition and remorse, my recommendation is when he writes the check, in the memo section he can put the word, ‘I’m accountable’ for the hoax.”

“The finance is a piece of it and an acknowledgement that what he did at every level was wrong,” he added.

A representative for Smollett’s legal team said “it is the mayor and the police chief who owe Jussie – owe him an apology – for dragging an innocent man’s character through the mud. Jussie has paid enough.” 

Emanuel also clapped back at President Donald Trump, who tweeted earlier Thursday that the case “is an embarrassment to our Nation!” 

“My recommendation to the president is go to Opening Day baseball. Sit on the sideline,” he said. “Stay out of this.”

“[Trump] created an environment that people think, like – I’m not done, I’m just getting started – that Jussie Smollett thinks that that hate-filled environment that the president created, pinning one American against another because of their background, then creates an environment he thought he could take an advantage of and create a hoax around a hate crime,” he added. “It is a vicious, toxic environment and cycle. I want to break it.” 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Justice will review the case, Trump claimed in his tweet Thursday. Both the FBI and the Department of Justice declined to comment on the case Thursday morning, according to NBC News. 

Smollett’s attorney said Thursday the actor simply wants to “move on,” claiming the aftermath of the alleged beating was “much harsher” than the attack itself.

“What that attack was pales in comparison to the attack on him by the mayor, by the CPD, by the press, by the public,” one of Smollett’s lawyers Tina Glandian said in an appearance on TODAY.

All criminal charges against Smollett were dropped Tuesday, nearly two months after the actor was accused of orchestrating a hate crime attack on himself. The surprise decision to dismiss the charges was celebrated by Smollett and his legal team and blasted by Chicago’s mayor and police department, who raised questions about the circumstances of the deal. 

In an appearance on TODAY Thursday, Smollett’s attorney Tina Glandian said his legal team was “not at all” concerned about a potential FBI investigation into the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of charges.

“We have nothing to be concerned about because there was nothing on our end to request this, to do anything improper, and to my knowledge, nothing improper was done,” Glandian said.

The news that charges would be dismissed came during an “emergency court appearance” where prosecutors not only dropped the charges against Smollett but agreed to expunge the actor’s record. Prosecutors later said the charges were dismissed in exchange for Smollett’s forfeiture of his $10,000 bond and his performance of community service. 

Smollett pleaded not guilty to multiple disorderly conduct charges earlier this month. He was initially charged with one felony count of disorderly conduct in filing a false police report in February, with Chicago police alleging that he staged the attack the month before because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.” A Cook County grand jury then indicted Smollett on 16 felony counts.

All Charges Dropped Against ‘Empire’ Star Jussie Smollett

[NATL] All Charges Dropped Against 'Empire' Star Jussie Smollett

“Jussie was attacked by two people he was unable to identify on January 29th. He was a victim who was vilified and made to appear as a perpetrator as a result of false and inappropriate remarks made to the public causing an inappropriate rush to judgment,” Smollett’s attorneys Glandian and Patricia Brown Holmes said in a statement. 

Smollett maintained his innocence, saying after court that he has been “truthful and consistent on every single level since day one.” 

Smollett reported the alleged attack to police on Jan. 29, claiming to have been beaten by two men who shouted racist and homophobic slurs, beat him, put a noose around his neck, and poured bleach on him, according to the indictment.

Initially investigating the incident as a possible hate crime, Chicago police said new information “shifted” their approach to the case, leading them to allege that Smollett orchestrated the assault by hiring two brothers who worked on “Empire” to execute it. 

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Supt. Eddie Johnson hammered the decision to dismiss charges against him, saying they were unaware it was happening.

“At the end of the day it’s Mr. Smollett who committed this hoax. Period. If he wanted to clear his name the way to do that was in a court of law so that everyone could see the evidence,” Johnson said. “I stand by the facts of what we produced. If they want to dispute those facts the place to do that is in court.” 

Visibly Angry Mayor on Smollett News: ‘Whitewash of Justice’

[CHI] Visibly Angry Mayor Calls Smollett News a 'Whitewash of Justice'

Emanuel called the decision a “whitewash of justice.”

“Where is the accountability in the system? You cannot have because of a person’s position, one set of rules apply to them and another set of rules apply to everybody else,” he said. 

In a statement, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office said the decision came “after reviewing all of the facts and circumstances of the case, including Mr. Smollet’s volunteer service in the community and agreement to forfeit his bond to the City of Chicago.”

“We believe this outcome is a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case,” the statement read.

In an interview Wednesday, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx defended her office’s decision to drop charges and denied that she had any involvement after recusing herself from the case in February. 

“I did not want, as this investigation changed, for there to be any question about my impartiality so I removed myself,” she said, echoing earlier statements from her office that the decision to drop charges was not uncommon in disorderly conduct cases.

WATCH: Jussie Smollett Speaks After Charges Dropped

[NATL-CHI] WATCH: Jussie Smollett Speaks After Charges Dropped

“Over the course of the last two years, we’ve had 5,700 people go through our pretrial diversion process, people who have non-violent offenses and who have no violence in their background,” Foxx said. “And so I think when people see this one particular case it feels like an outlier where in fact, it’s consistent with how we treat people charged with similar offenses with the same background.”

Documents obtained earlier this month via Freedom of Information Act request showed that Foxx had asked Johnson to turn the investigation over to the FBI. The documents also showed correspondence between Foxx, an unknown person and Tina Tchen, a one-time assistant to former President Barack Obama and Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama.

“It was not unusual for me to talk to a victim in a case,” Foxx said. “At the time that I engaged with this family member, Mr. Smollett was a victim.”

Tchen said in a statement she knew members of the Smollett family from “prior work together” and that “as a family friend,” she contacted Foxx “to put the chief prosecutor in the case in touch with an alleged victim’s family who had concerns about how the investigation was being characterized in public.”

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George to the Rescue Helps Blind Teenage Swimmer

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Fifteen year-old Anastasia Pagonis’ vision impairment has progressively worsened over the years. In 2018, she lost her vision, but she did not let that stop her zest for life. She turned to what she knew and loved — swimming.

Pagonis’ passion for swimming developed as a form of therapy as she battled vision decline between the ages of five and 15. Now, she’s almost completely blind.

“I want to live a normal life. I don’t want my disability to stop me in any way,” Pagonis said.

George to the Rescue host George Oliphant was moved by Pagonis’ story and wanted to help make life easier for Pagonis, also known as Tas.

“We want to surprise Tas with a lifechanging rescue that will give her the independence and comfort she deserves,” said Oliphant. “Now usually on the rescue we like to the change the layout. But, I think in this house it’s important to keep it the same because that’s what Tas knows.”

The George to the Rescue crew worked to renovate her home with a tactile bathroom, bedroom makeover, light sensitivity windows and an endless swimming pool to make it easier for Pagonis to navigate her home while managing vision loss.

Pagonis hopes to inspire others who are visually impaired and face their own personal challenges. She is currently training for the 2020 Paralympics. 

Oliphant brought Molly Burke, a blind YouTuber, to meet Pagonis. 

“It’s mindblowing… You helped me with so much with everything,” Pagonis said to Burke.

Watch the episode to see the Pagonis family home transformation.

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Fan Sues Madonna for Frequently Being Hours Late to Concerts

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A Florida man has filed a class-action lawsuit against Madonna after a concert he planned to attend in Miami Beach was pushed back by two hours to accommodate the pop star’s tardiness, NBC News reports.

Nate Hollander purchased three tickets totaling $1,024.95 for Madonna’s Dec. 17, 2019, “Madame X Tour” at the Fillmore Miami Beach concert venue, according to the suit filed Nov. 4 in federal court in Miami-Dade County.

At the time Hollander bought the tickets, the show was scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m., according to the suit against the pop star and concert promoter Live Nation.

The suit alleges at the start of the tour, which kicked off in September, Madonna repeatedly arrived hours late to her shows.

Madonna and Live Nation could not immediately be reached for comment on the lawsuit.

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Behold! 2019 Tree Set to Arrive at Rockefeller Center, Officially Kicking Off the Holiday Season

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From a coffee table to a yard in New York’s Orange County, the 2019 Rockefeller Center holiday tree is ready for showtime.

The 77-foot-tall Norway spruce from Carol Schultz in the village of Florida arrives in the plaza Saturday, where it will be raised off a trailer and hoisted into its place by the iconic Prometheus statue on the ice rink in a three-hour effort. Schultz will use a sledgehammer to drive a spike into the trunk as the huge spruce is erected in middle of the 30 Rock Plaza.

The arrival of the tree officially ushers in the holiday season. Vistors will witness quite the engineering feat as the iconic holiday symbol is raised off a 115-foot-long trailer and put into its prominent Rockefeller Center home, where it will be lit in all its glory during a live television special next month.

The 14-ton tree was cut down on Thursday. And it has quite a story. 

Schultz tells News 4 it was only 4 feet tall when she planted it in 1959. She says she initially had the plant inside her home on a coffee table but later planted it outside.

“I said, ‘Oh I don’t think it’s gonna take.’ You know how things happen, but it turned out to be a magnificent tree. It’s so beautiful, shaped perfect and I’m happy to share it with everybody,” Schultz said.

The head gardener from Rockefeller Center, Erik Pauze, says he spotted the top of the tree while he was driving and he just had to figure out a way to get to it.

“As soon as I came around the corner I kind of knew it’d be the tree,” Pauze said.

It was a bittersweet goodbye for Schultz but it was almost destined to be. It didn’t take a lot of convincing on Pauze’s part when he knocked on Schultz’s door, since she had submitted the very same tree to be the Rockefeller tree candidate in 2010. 

After being adorned with more than 50,000 multi-colored lights and crowned with the iconic Swarovski star, the tree will be illuminated for the first time during a live TV broadcast on Wednesday, Dec. 4. 

It’ll be on display until Friday, Jan. 14, 2020. Afterwards, the tree will be donated to Habitat for Humanity to be made into a home.

Last year’s tree was a 72-foot, 12-ton Norway spruce from Shirley Figueroa and Lissette Gutierrez in Wallkill. 

The first Rockefeller Center Christmas tree was put up in 1931 by workers building the complex during the Great Depression. The first official tree lighting there was in 1933.

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