Watch out: Judge appoints special prosecutor in Jussie Smollett hoax case

It’s bad news for Jussie Smollett and for Kim Foxx, but good news for the people of Chicago — in more ways than one. Judge Michael Toomin named former Iran-Contra investigator Dan Webb as special prosecutor to investigate the hoax and the “unprecedented irregularities” in the handling of the case by Chicago state attorney Foxx.

Webb says he’s starting from scratch — and it won’t cost Chicago a dime:

Former U.S. Attorney 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.

As the New York Times explains, Webb’s appointment won’t make either Smollett or Foxx happy. That’s because they tried to push Toomin off the case, and failing that, to prevent any special prosecutor from reviving criminal charges against Smollett. Toomin shot them down on both counts, and Webb’s declaration of starting from scratch portends real trouble for Smollett.

So who is Dan Webb? He’s a Republican, but one who cuts across the grain. Webb supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, but is best remembered for his prosecution of a high-profile official in the Reagan administration:

Mr. Webb gained international recognition for prosecuting Adm. John M. Poindexter, a former national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, in the Iran-contra affair. In his current role as an executive chairman of the international law firm Winston & Strawn, he is known for defending prominent white collar clients, including George H. Ryan, the a former Illinois governor, and is considered to be one of the most high-profile lawyers in Chicago.

Despite being consistently associated with Republicans, Mr. Webb supported Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.

Webb’s no pushover, nor is he particularly intimidated by power. That alone should worry Smollett, but Foxx might have more at risk. It’s still an open question whether jeopardy has already attached for Smollett after Foxx’s very strange non-prosecution deal. If that turns out to be corrupt, it still might not leave the state of Illinois any room to charge Smollett — even if Foxx could face criminal charges over it.

However, that doesn’t mean Smollett’s out of the woods either. If he committed a corrupt act with Foxx, then he (and/or his team) could face state charges on those crimes rather than the hoax. On top of that, the FBI and postal investigators still have an open case on whether Smollett might have committed a federal offense or two with hoax threat letters received at about the same time. If Webb digs into the case and develops evidence along those lines, Smollett could face several years in prison.

In other words, forget Empire. The next season of Smollett & Foxx is going to be lit.