CHICAGO (REUTERS) – A Chicago judge on Friday (Aug 23) named a special prosecutor to probe the case involving former Empire actor Jussie Smollett’s allegation that he was the victim of a racist attack, which authorities have ruled a hoax.
Cook County Judge Michael Toomin appointed former US Attorney Dan Webb to investigate the case.
Smollett, who is black and gay, told police on Jan 29 that two masked men threw a noose around his neck and poured chemicals on him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs and expressing support for Republican US President Donald Trump.
Toomin said Webb, a former US attorney who won a conviction of one of former President Ronald Reagan’s advisers for his role in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal, was “guided by a strong moral compass and integrity.”
A month after Smollett made the allegation, State’s Attorney Kim Foxx charged Smollett, best known for his role as a gay musician on the Fox Television hip-hop drama Empire, with filing a false police report and accused him of paying US$3,500 (S$4,800) to two men to stage the attack to generate public sympathy.
In March, to the dismay of local politicians and police officials, Foxx’s office dropped the charges, saying an agreement by Smollett to forfeit his US$10,000 bond was a just outcome.
Smollett has denied staging the attack.
Foxx also recused herself from the case because of conversations she had about the incident with one of Smollett’s relatives.
Toomin told the Chicago Tribune in June that the case’s”unprecedented irregularities” warranted the appointment of a special prosecutor “to restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system.”
Webb’s investigation could bring fresh charges against Smollett and charges against anyone else who is believed to have committed a crime during the incident and investigation, the Tribune reported, citing Toomin’s ruling in June.
Smollett was written out of the final two episodes of Empire this season after he was charged with staging the hate crime.