A judge has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate why charges were dropped in the case against Jussie Smollett, the gay Empire actor who was accused of staging a hate crime against himself.
It’s the latest twist in the high-profile case against Smollett, who faced 16 felony counts for claiming in January that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. The charges were abruptly dropped on March 26, for reasons which are unclear.
On Friday (June 21) it was announced that a special prosecutor would be investigating the decision in order to “restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system,” CNN reports.
Smollett’s lawyers opposed the appointment of a special prosecutor as it could lead to further charges being brought against the actor. But Cook county judge Michael Toomin approved it as he felt further information was needed on the conduct of state attorney Kim Foxx, who has come under fire for her handling of the case.
Toomin suggested that Foxx had mishandled the Smollett case by appointing a top aide to oversee it after she recused herself. He ruled that Foxx had no right to select someone from her office to handle the prosecution, saying that what she did amounted to naming her own special prosecutor.
“The entire country is getting a window into the absurdity of the Chicago political and legal system.”
— Martin Preib, Fraternal Order of Police
“State’s attorneys are clearly not meant to have unbridled authority to appoint special prosecutors,” he said. “She appointed (her top assistant) to an office, to an entity, that has no legal existence. There isn’t an office of the ‘acting state’s attorney.’ It existed only … in the imagination of Ms Foxx,” The Guardian reported.
As Chicago’s Police Union demanded her resignation, Foxx defended her management of the case and said she would welcome an independent investigation. She said the attack on her was “personal.”
Earlier this year the Fraternal Order of Police called for a federal investigation into Foxx’s “interference” in the Smollett case, saying that her office’s work was “highly, highly suspicious”.
“The entire country is outraged by it,” Martin Preib, of the FOP, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “This decision appears to be utterly arbitrary, capricious and suspicious.”
“The entire country is getting a window into the absurdity of the Chicago political and legal system,” he added.