Posted on August 23, 2019

Former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb Named Special Prosecutor to Look into Dismissal of Jussie Smollett Charges

Megan Crepeaum, Chicago Tribune, August 23, 2019

Former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb on Friday was appointed special prosecutor to look into why State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office abruptly dropped all charges against actor Jussie Smollett.

The appointment was announced by Judge Michael Toomin during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Court Building. Webb was sworn in shortly after the announcement. {snip}

As special prosecutor, Webb will bring on a team of attorneys to assist in the probe. They will wield extensive power to follow the probe where it leads, including investigating “the actions of any person or office involved in all aspects of the case,” Toomin has said. They could also file new charges against Smollett — or anyone else they reasonably believe committed a crime.

Webb told reporters after the hearing he plans to request the appointment of a special grand jury, and he wants to meet with Smollett’s lawyers early on.

Webb, the co-executive chairman of the prominent law firm Winston & Strawn, said he would not charge legal fees in this case. “We are going to do the entire matter, start to finish, pro bono.”

The Cook County state’s attorney’s office released a statement saying, “We pledge our full cooperation to the special prosecutor appointed today to review this matter.”


In June, Toomin ordered the appointment in a somewhat unexpected ruling, saying the case’s “unprecedented irregularities” warranted the appointment “to restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system.” Toomin — who has been on the Circuit Court bench for nearly 40 years — ruled Foxx’s botched decision to appoint her top deputy to prosecute Smollett after recusing herself invalidated the case from start to finish.

The appointment of a special prosecutor marks the first step in what promises to be a full-blown probe of how Foxx’s office made the controversial decision to drop the charges. The investigation could cast a cloud over Foxx’s bid for reelection next year.


In 2012, Toomin appointed Webb special prosecutor to look into whether clout tainted the investigation of former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s nephew in a confrontation that led to the death of David Koschman. Webb billed the county nearly $1 million for that investigation.

Webb, a former U.S. attorney for the Chicago area, is one of the city’s most distinguished trial lawyers in private practice. His area of practice includes commercial, civil, regulatory and white-collar criminal cases, according to Winston & Strawn’s website.

As a federal prosecutor, Webb oversaw the “Operation Greylord” investigations into judicial misconduct in Cook County. Last year, Webb declined to represent President Donald Trump, citing “business conflicts.”


Foxx said she “recused” herself from the prosecution in its early stages, though her office later said she did not recuse herself “in the legal sense.” In his ruling, Toomin called that “an exercise in creative lawyering.”

To explain why she stepped aside, Foxx at first cited the fact that she had contact with a relative of Smollett when the actor was still considered a victim. High-profile attorney Tina Tchen, a former chief of staff to former first lady Michelle Obama, connected Smollett with that relative, sparking conspiracy theories that the Obamas directed Foxx to go easy on the actor.

But in May, internal communications from Foxx’s office — released to the Chicago Tribune and other news organizations as part of public-records requests — showed Foxx claimed she recused herself because of false rumors that she was related to Smollett.