An Illinois judge has approved a special prosecutor to look into how prosecutors in Chicago handled the Jussie Smollett case debacle earlier this year.
Police alleged that Smollet had staged a hate crime, and Cook County prosecutors indicted him for allegedly fabricating a racist and homophobic hate crime in which he was the victim.
However, the charges were later dropped in a case that Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Toomin said contained “unprecedented irregularities,” the Chicago Tribune reports. Now the judge is calling for an independent counsel to investigate “to restore the public’s confidence in the integrity of our criminal justice system.”
Smollet had initially been indicted on 16 felony counts of disorderly conduct that included, according to police, Smollett paying two brothers to fake an attack on him in order to get publicity.
Judge Toomin also appeared to criticize Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, whose office has been negatively embroiled in the case. Her decision to appoint her top assistant in charge of the case, after recusing herself from the investigation, was not appropriate.
According to the judge, an independent special prosecutor should instead have been brought in rather than a prosecutor who “was appointed to a fictitious office having no legal existence.”
“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.”
Despite the controversy, Smollett has long maintained his innocence, with his attorneys previously stating, “Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.”