A Chicago judge appointed former U.S. Attorney Dan K. Webb to investigate why local officials dropped charges against Jussie Smollett, who was accused of paying two accomplices to stage a racist and homophobic hate crime against himself.
Cook County Judge Michael Toomin concluded a two month search beginning in June for a special prosecutor, landing on Webb, a high-profile lawyer known for his work as special counsel on in the Iran-Contra affair, in which he prosecuted President Ronald Reagan’s former national security adviser John M. Poindexter.
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Webb told reporters,”We are honored to play a role in helping, as Judge Toomin said in a recent order, to restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system.” He also told reporters that his firm would perform the investigation pro bono, billing the county only for out-of-pocket expenses.
Pursuant to law Toomin had to first reach out to the state attorney general, an appellate prosecutor, or an Illinois state attorney for the job. Toomin settled on Webb after numerous people turned down the offer. Toomin said in the courtroom, “I might say that the responses were less than enthusiastic, as you might expect.”
Smollett, known for his role on “Empire,” claimed two men beat him, yelled homophobic and racial slurs, poured bleach on him and slipped a noose around his neck in an attack in January of this year. He claimed the two assailants yelled, “This is MAGA country!” Chicago police investigated the incident and concluded the actor had paid two acquaintances to stage the attack as a publicity stunt.
The Cook Country state’s attorney office charged Smollett in February with 16 counts of filing a false police report, then abruptly dropped the charges a month later.
Toomin called for a special prosecutor in June, after ruling that State’s Attorney Kim Foxx mishandled the case, citing “unprecedented irregularities.” Foxx had recused herself over concerns of conflicts of interest. She had been in contact with a Smollett family member and the former chief of staff for Michelle Obama approached Foxx on Smollet’s behalf. Foxx appointed a top aide to take over the case.
Smollett’s lawyers filed a motion in July to overturn the decision to appoint a special prosecutor, arguing the move could expose the actor to double jeopardy.
The city of Chicago is currently suing Smollett, seeking recompense for 1,500 hours of overtime pay to investigating the alleged January hate crime.
Smollett maintains his police report was legitimate.