In a move widely expected to revive the national media spotlight on hate crime allegations made by “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, a Chicago judge on Friday announced the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate how local prosecutors handled the TV actor’s case.
In announcing his choice of former US Attorney Dan K. Webb as the special prosecutor, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Michael Toomin now gives an independent, experienced trial attorney the authority and time to examine why Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx dropped 16 disorderly conduct charges against Smollett after a high-profile Chicago Police investigation that lasted several weeks using dozens of investigators.
Webb will have authority to file new charges, if deemed appropriate, against Smollett following his investigation.
The gay black actor claimed in January that he was the victim of a hate-fueled attack, but police in February claimed Smollett staged it.
Smollett, 36, was indicted on 16 felony counts but prosecutors unexpectedly dropped all charges. Prosecutors said Smollett had forfeited his $10,000 bail money and done community service.
Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Smollett paid two brothers $3,500 to stage the attack and take “advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career.”
The brothers, Olabinjo and Abimbola Osundairo, were cleared when prosecutors announced Smollett had orchestrated a hoax.