A former U.S. Attorney has been appointed by a Chicago judge as special prosecutor to investigate the Jessie Smollett case. Dan Webb will be tasked with finding out why the Cook County State’s Attorney dropped charges against the Empire actor in March.
Smollett was charged with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly staging a purported racist and homophobic attack against himself in January. He has always denied the accusations, but the dismissal was challenged by the Chicago police and its union, which has been demanding a federal probe into how State Attorney Kim Foxx’s team handled the case (Foxx had recused herself from the case due to connections to the actor’s family).
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In April, the city of Chicago sued Smollett for more than $130,000 to cover the cost of its investigation into the alleged attack, which they say was staged by Smollett and two other men.
Webb, one of Chicago’s most high-profile defense attorneys after serving as U.S. Attorney in the city in the 1980s, said he wanted to proceed quickly with his work, adding that “the facts will take me where they take me.” That could include recommending Smollett be re-charged.
Smollett’s attorneys had attempted to block the appointment of a special prosecutor, saying the case was “a travesty of justice and an unprecedented deprivation of Mr. Smollett’s constitutional rights,” and accusing Cook County Judge Michael Toomin of conducting a trial by media.
It was Toomin who appointed Webb on Friday.
Amid the turmoil surrounding the attack and the aftermath, Smollett was dropped from shooting the final episodes of Season 5 of Empire. The hip hop drama will return for its final season later this year, with Smollett now written out of the show.