Actor Jussie Smollett attends the Billboard Music Awards at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 21, 2017. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 23 (UPI) -- An Illinois judge on Friday named a former U.S. Attorney as a special prosecutor to lead an investigation into authorities' handling of the Jussie Smollett case, in which he reported he'd been assaulted by two men who shouted derogatory slurs.
Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Toomin appointed Dan K. Webb to look into the case, which stems from Smollett's reported assault in Chicago in January.
Investigators at first attempted to locate the assailants, but eventually declared the story was a hoax and prosecutors charged the former Empire star with several counts of filing a false police report. Prosecutors said they believe Smollett staged the attack to drum up popularity and sympathy for his acting career.
Prosecutors dropped the charges in March and the evidentiary files were sealed.
Toomin tabbed Webb after 30 other Illinois prosecutors turned down the appointment. He will now examine how State's Attorney Kim Foxx handled the case.
"I understand this case is important. Judge Toomin has made that clear to me," Webb said Friday. "I intend to expedite everything, but the facts will take me where they take me."
"While the court previously concluded that our office had no conflict of interest in this case, public trust is paramount to our work," Foxx said. "We pledge our full cooperation to the special prosecutor appointed today to review this matter."
Webb was a top Chicago prosecutor during the 1980s and previously served as a special prosecutor in a 2012 criminal case. He said he plans to assemble a grand jury and meet with Smollett's lawyers soon.
Smollett, 37, told officers the assailants taunted him with racial and sexual slurs, poured bleach over him and put a noose around his neck. Chicago police said they dedicated tremendous resources to finding the attackers.