Actor Jussie Smollett leaves the Leighton Criminal Court Building after his hearing in Chicago, Illinois, United States on March 14, 2019. (Reuters)
CHICAGO – A judge in Chicago on Friday 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 U.S. Attorney Dan Webb to investigate the case.
Smollett, who is black, gay and best known for his role on the Fox Television hip-hop drama Empire, told police on January 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 U.S. President Donald Trump.
Toomin said Webb, who won a conviction of one of former President Ronald Reagan’s advisers for his role in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal and now serves as co-executive chairman of one of Chicago’s largest law firms, was “guided by a strong moral compass and integrity”.
“We are honoured to play a role in helping, as Judge Toomin said in a recent order, to restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system,” Webb said in Cook County Circuit Court on Friday.
Webb said he intends to request a special grand jury to hear evidence on whether any people or offices previously handling the case had committed wrongdoing and whether there are further grounds to prosecute Smollett.
A month after Smollett made the allegation, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx charged him with filing a false police report and accused him of paying $3 500 to two men to stage the attack to generate public sympathy.
Smollett has denied staging the attack.
In March, to the shock and dismay of local politicians and police officials, Foxx’s office dropped the charges, saying an agreement by Smollett to forfeit his $10 000 bond was a just outcome.
Foxx recused herself from the case because of conversations she had about the incident with one of Smollett’s relatives.
Smollett was written out of the final two episodes of Empire this season after he was charged with staging the hate crime. (Reuters)