Judge appoints special prosecutor to investigate why charges were dropped against Empire actor Jussie Smollett for allegedly staging a racist, anti-gay attack against himself

  • Illinois Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appointed former US attorney Dan Webb as special prosecutor in the Jussie Smollett case
  • Webb will investigate why prosecutors dropped charges against Smollett for allegedly staging a racist anti-gay attack against himself 
  • Smollett has claimed that he did not fabricate the incident and it wasn't staged 
  • It's been suggested county's state's attorney, Kim Foxx, mishandled the case 
  • After Foxx recused herself, she appointed a top aide to oversee it 
  • The judge said that she should've requested a special prosecutor instead 

A judge has named a special prosecutor to look into why state prosecutors abruptly dropped charges against actor Jussie Smollett that accused him of staging a racist, anti-gay attack against himself.

Illinois Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appointed former US attorney Dan Webb during a hearing Friday at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.

Webb not only will investigate how the county state's attorney Kim Foxx and her office handled the case, but determine whether the Empire actor should be further prosecuted for allegedly staging the hoax hate crime.  

Foxx said Friday that she will give the special prosecutor her 'full cooperation' - it has been suggested she mishandled the Smollett case by appointing a top aide to oversee it after she recused herself. 

Smollett maintains that the January 29 attack — during which he claimed two men beat him, put a noose around his neck and made racist and homophobic remarks — was not staged. 

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A special prosecutor was appointed to look into why Illinois state prosecutors dropped charges against actor Jussie Smollett (pictured), accusing him of staging a racist, anti-gay attack against himself

A special prosecutor was appointed to look into why Illinois state prosecutors dropped charges against actor Jussie Smollett (pictured), accusing him of staging a racist, anti-gay attack against himself

Smollett claimed that two men beat him, put a noose around his neck and made racist and homophobic remarks while doing it on January 29. Smollett is pictured here in the hospital after the attack
Smollett is seen here in his mugshot on February 21 after turning himself in to police

Smollett claimed that two men beat him, put a noose around his neck and made racist and homophobic remarks while doing it on January 29. Smollett is pictured, at right, in the hospital, after the attack and, at left, in his mugshot on February 21 after turning himself in to police

Former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb takes the oath of special prosecutor during a status hearing concerning Smollett at the Leighton Criminal Court building in Chicago Friday

Former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb takes the oath of special prosecutor during a status hearing concerning Smollett at the Leighton Criminal Court building in Chicago Friday

The Cook County state's attorney's office charged Smollett in February with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for allegedly orchestrating the incident.

However, it dropped all of the charges a month later with little explanation, angering city officials and the police.

A former state appellate judge, Sheila O'Brien, petitioned for a special prosecutor, leading to Mr Toomin's surprise ruling in June that one was warranted.

Mr Webb told reporters after Friday's hearing that he was heading into the investigation with no preconceived notions about an outcome.

'I don't know where this case is going. The facts will take me where I they take me,' he said.

Mr Webb is arguably Chicago's most high-profile defence attorney of the last few decades and has been asked five times previously to serve as a special prosecutor.

His high-profile clients have included former Illinois governor George Ryan.

As US attorney in Chicago in the 1980s, he led the prosecution of several dozen corrupt Cook County judges, lawyers and police officers.

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx said that she will cooperate with the special prosecutor. It's been suggested that Foxx mishandled Smollett's case by appointing a top aide to oversee it after she recused herself

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx said that she will cooperate with the special prosecutor. It's been suggested that Foxx mishandled Smollett's case by appointing a top aide to oversee it after she recused herself

Smollett's car was identified by police when he was claiming he was a victim of an attack by unknown assailants

Smollett's car was identified by police when he was claiming he was a victim of an attack by unknown assailants

Surveillance video shows Smollett seen walking down middle of street before the 'attack'

Surveillance video shows Smollett seen walking down middle of street before the 'attack'

Smollett's high-profile case started after he told police he was walking home early on January 29 when two masked men approached him, made racist and homophobic insults, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing.

He said his assailants, at least one of whom he said was white, told him he was in 'MAGA country' — a reference to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan, Make America Great Again.

Several weeks later, authorities alleged that Smollett had paid two black friends $3,500 dollars to help him stage the attack because he was unhappy with his salary as an actor on Empire and wanted to drum up publicity for his career. 

In his June ruling, Mr Toomin suggested that Foxx, mishandled the Smollett case by appointing a top aide to oversee it after she recused herself.

Foxx had been in contact with a Smollett relative and was approached by former first lady Michelle Obama's one-time chief of staff on behalf of Smollett's family.

Foxx explained at the time she was recusing herself to avoid 'even the perception of a conflict' of interest.

Abel Osundairo (left) celebrates with brother Olabinjo Osundairo (right) allegedly told police that Smollett paid them to help fake the January attack

Abel Osundairo (left) celebrates with brother Olabinjo Osundairo (right) allegedly told police that Smollett paid them to help fake the January attack  

In his ruling, Mr Toomin said he had no problem with Foxx's February recusal but that it should have included a request for a special prosecutor.

He said she had no right to hand it off to someone from her office, which he said amounted to naming her own special prosecutor.

Foxx has said Smollett was treated no differently than thousands of other defendants in low-level cases whose charges have been similarly dropped.

Foxx also publicly wondered if her being black has anything to do with the criticism she has received.  

Foxx said Friday in a statement that she will give her 'full cooperation' to the special prosecutor and that 'public trust is paramount' to the work of prosecutors. 

Smollett, who it was confirmed will not appear in the upcoming season of Empire, is demanding that the $130,000 lawsuit filed by the city of Chicago following the alleged hoax attack be thrown out because he didn't make up the claims. 

The city sued the actor back in April for the overtime pay costs of investigating his allegations that he was a victim of a racist and anti-gay attack in downtown Chicago.

In July, Smollett said he wanted the lawsuit moved from state court to federal court.

Smollett's attorneys had argued that federal court was the proper venue for the case because the actor, who lived in Chicago while filming Empire, is actually a California resident. 

Police released more than 1,000 files in June from the investigation into Smollett's claims he was attacked by two men.

Police released body camera footage showing Smollett (in white sweater) with the noose he claimed was put around his neck while police arrived at his apartment after the attack

Police released body camera footage showing Smollett (in white sweater) with the noose he claimed was put around his neck while police arrived at his apartment after the attack

It included video footage that showed the actor with a thin, white rope wrapped around his neck that he told detectives was a noose.

The footage from body cameras worn by police officers who responded on Jan. 29 to what Smollett said was a racist and homophobic attack by two large men has Smollett's face blurred out because, as police explained, he was considered a victim at that point.

It showed officers walking into the apartment, where they encounter the actor wearing the rope, before one asks him, 'Do you want to take it off or anything?'

'Yeah, I do. I just wanted you all to see it,' Smollett says before unwinding the rope, loosening it and placing it on the kitchen counter.

Police have said he told them the attackers wrapped the rope around his neck.

In the video, he told officers that the attackers poured bleach on him. After he was informed about the recording, Smollett said he didn't want to be filmed and the camera was turned off.

In all, police released nearly 1,200 different individual files, including thousands of pages of documents, arrest reports and handwritten notes from police. Added up, there is more than 90 hours of video, much of it hour after hour of surveillance cameras high above city streets.

Judge appoints special prosecutor to investigate why Jussie Smollett staged attack charges dropped

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