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CHICAGO (CN) – A Cook County judge announced his choice Friday for the special prosecutor who will investigate how the State’s Attorney’s Office handled the brief prosecution of “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett.
Dan K. Webb of the firm Winston & Strawn in Chicago will take the lead on looking into whether Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, or anyone else in her office, did anything wrong during Smollett’s criminal case.
Webb will also determine whether Smollett should face new charges.
The actor was indicted on 16 felony counts earlier this year stemming from a purported attack he endured in Chicago. Smollett painted it as a hate crime, but Chicago police later alleged that the whole incident was a hoax spearheaded by Smollett himself.
After the decision by Foxx’s office to abruptly drop all of the charges drew scrutiny from both city officials and the public, retired appeals court Judge Sheila O’Brien petitioned to appoint a special prosecutor
Text messages from Foxx also revealed that she remained involved in the prosecution despite publicly stating she had recused herself due to previous contact with one of Smollett’s family members.
Webb was sworn in as special prosecutor Friday in court.
Judge Toomin called the attorney “a man guided by a strong moral compass and integrity,” adding that “his background, experience and qualifications make him an imminently understandable choice.”
The judge noted that he initially reached out to public attorneys, as required by state law, but the only two who were willing to do the job were not able to take it on.
The county would have to foot the bill for a private firm to take on the case, but Webb said Winston & Strawn has decided to work pro bono, and will be only billing Cook County for out of pocket expenses.
“I’ve always been honored to come back and serve in this capacity,” Webb said after Friday’s hearing.
This will be his sixth stint as a special prosecutor.
“I understand this case is important,” Webb said, adding that he plans to begin his investigation right away.
“He’s a good lawyer,” O’Brien said of Judge Toomin’s pick.
“I’m not concerned about the outcome,” she added. “This was all about the fairness of the process.”
“While the court previously concluded that our office had no conflict of interest in this case, public trust is paramount to our work,” the State’s Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “We pledge our full cooperation to the special prosecutor appointed today to review this matter.”
Foxx is up for re-election next year, endorsed by the Cook County Democratic Party.
In addition to a possible reopening of Smollett’s criminal case, the actor has been sued by the city of Chicago for $130,000, the amount it spent looking into his claims.
Two brothers, whose testimony that he paid them to stage the attack prompted the charges against Smollett, are also suing his attorneys for defamation.
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