CHICAGO (CBS) — Former federal prosecutor Dan Webb has been appointed as a special prosecutor to investigate the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office decision to drop disorderly conduct charges against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, who had been accused of orchestrating a fake hate crime against himself.
Judge Michael Toomin announced Webb’s appointment as special prosecutor at a hearing Friday morning at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
Webb said he and his firm, Winston & Strawn, are handling the case for free, and will not charge Cook County any fees.
“We are going to do the entire matter, start to finish, pro bono,” he said.
Former U.S Attorney and now prominent defense attorney Dan Webb selected by Judge Toomin as special prosecutor in Jussie Smollett case.
— Charlie De Mar (@CharlieDeMar) August 23, 2019
Toomin ruled two months ago that a special prosecutor was needed in the case, due to “unprecedented irregularities” in how Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx handled the case, specifically by handing it over to her second-in-command after announcing she had recused herself. The judge said Foxx had no authority to appoint someone to take over the case for her, so every decision her office made — from charging Smollett, to indicting him, to ultimately dismissing the case — was invalid.
Webb not only will investigate how Foxx’s office handled the case, but determine whether Smollett should be further prosecuted for allegedly staging a hoax hate crime.
A prominent defense attorney and former U.S. Attorney for Chicago, Webb also was appointed by Toomin as a special prosecutor in the 2004 death of David Koschman, at the hands of Richard R.J. Vanecko, a nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.
Vanecko punched David Koschman, 21, of Mount Prospect, in the face in a drunken confrontation early on April 25, 2004, outside the late-night bars along Division Street. Koschman fell, hit his head on a curb and died 11 days later of brain injuries without regaining consciousness.
Vanecko ultimately pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, and served 60 days in jail.
In ruling for a special prosecutor in the case, Toomin said Foxx had no authority to hand off the case to her top deputy after announcing she had recused herself from the case because of contact with a relative of Smollett’s before he was charged.
Toomin said Foxx effectively appointed First Assistant State’s Attorney Joseph Magats to a “fictitious” office to serve in her stead.
“What causes concerns is that she appointed him to an entity that had and has no legal existence. There is no office of acting state’s attorney,” he said.
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“Here, the ship of the State ventured from its protected harbor without the guiding hand of its captain. There was no master on the bridge to guide the ship as it floundered through unchartered waters,” Toomin wrote in his ruling.