A Chicago judge on Friday announced the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate how local prosecutors handled the bogus hate crime allegations made by Jussie Smollett in January of this year, according to CNN. The move is expected to blow the case back open and again push it in into the national media spotlight.
Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Toomin announced his choice of US Attorney Dan K. Webb, which gives an independent and experienced trail attorney the time and resources necessary to examine why Cook County State Attorney Kim Foxx mysteriously dropped 16 disorderly conduct charges against Smollett after a lengthy Chicago police investigation that lasted several weeks and used significant amounts of resources.
Recall, when Smollett was let off the hook, Chicago's mayor called it a "whitewash of justice".
Webb now has the authority to file new charges, if necessary, following Smollett's claims last January that he was the victim of a hate crime. Police later found out in February that Smollett had staged it.
Smollett was indicted on 16 felony counts as a result of staging the attack, but prosecutors stunned the world when they unexpectedly dropped all charges and let Smollett off the hook for the $10,000 in bail money he had already surrendered. Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson said that Smollett had paid two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack in order to bolster his career.
Webb's resumé includes helping lead a massive investigation into corruption called Operation Greylord in the 1980s that resulted in more than 90 people, including lawyers, judges, police officers and court employees, facing corruption charges. Then, as a federal prosecutor, he successfully prosecuted retired Admiral John Poindexter for his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal during the Reagan administration.
Sheila O'Brien, a retired Illinois appellate court judge who initiated the petition to appoint a special prosecutor in the case called Webb's appointment a "great day for justice".
"Now we have a special prosecutor who will take a look at the original case and decide if it is worthy of re-prosecution and also how the original case was handled by the state's attorney's office," O'Brien said.
The judge said that of the 30 responses he received for a special prosecutor, 27 state's attorneys said they had no interest in handling the case, one answered maybe and two answered yes. Jussie Smollett's defense attorney objected to Webb's appointment, but Judge Toomin responded by saying "it was my call".
"His background, experience and qualifications make him an imminently understandable choice," Toomin said of Webb.
Chicago police are standing by their investigation. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said: "We stand firmly behind the work of our detectives, prosecutors and an independent grand jury who brought the initial criminal charges against Mr. Smollett."
O'Brien concluded: "We have to always have the truth in any case. The public has to know that every case we have is handled fairly and according to the law. So we are going to be assured of that now."