A Cook County judge on Friday ordered the surprise appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the sudden dismissal of all charges against Jussie Smollett, saying the short-lived prosecution may have been legally invalid from the beginning.
Judge Michael Toomin ruled that State’s Attorney Kim Foxx had the right to withdraw herself from overseeing the prosecution of the onetime “Empire” actor but held no legal authority to then delegate that responsibility to her top deputy.
With the deputy holding no real authority, the Smollett case made its way through the court system without a prosecutor at the helm, the veteran judge said.
“There was no master on the bridge to guide the ship as it floundered through uncharted waters, and it ultimately lost its bearings,” Toomin wrote in the 21-page opinion. “… The unprecedented irregularities identified in this case warrants the appointment of independent counsel to restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system.”
The decision marked a victory for Sheila O’Brien, a former state appellate judge who sought the special prosecutor in largely a solo effort, and a political blow for Foxx, the first-term officeholder who is seeking reelection next year.