CHICAGO, Ill. – A Cook County circuit court judge ruled Friday that the attorney investigating the handling of actor Jussie Smollett’s case will remain the special prosecutor despite his 2016 campaign donation to the state’s attorney who dropped charges against the actor.
Former US Attorney Dan Webb was appointed by Judge Michael Toomin in August to investigate how local prosecutors handled the TV actor’s case. Webb’s appointment means he’s given the authority and time to examine why Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx dropped 16 disorderly conduct charges against Smollett after a high-profile Chicago Police investigation that lasted several weeks using dozens of investigators.
The conflict of interest issue arose Monday when Webb filed a motion for a status hearing because it was brought to his attention that he donated $1,000 to Foxx in an October 2016 fundraiser.
Webb wrote in the motion that he “did not know Kim Foxx, and to the best of my recollection, I had never met Kim Foxx and never had any communications with her.”
“I did not disclose to Judge Toomin that I had ever made a political contribution to Ms. Foxx because, at the time I was talking to Judge Toomin, I had no recollection of ever making a political contribution to Kim Foxx,” Webb wrote.
In his motion, Webb wrote that it is typical to donate money to campaigns when his friends hosted fundraisers. The fundraiser for Foxx was hosted at the law firm Winston & Strawn, where Webb is co-executive chairman, and was sponsored by Kimball Anderson, a partner at the firm.
Michael Bromwich, Foxx’s attorney, told Webb “he and Kim Foxx do not consider this a political contribution an issue, and stated that Kim Foxx will not claim any conflict of interest, or have any objection related to this contribution.”
In court Friday, Webb explained why there wouldn’t be a conflict of interest in his appointment as the special prosecutor, repeating that he simply doesn’t know Foxx.
Judge Toomin said while announcing his decision there is “no indication that he [Webb] harbors any bias or prejudice to any individual.”
Foxx’s office released a statement Friday, saying “public trust is paramount to our work.”
“We raised our concerns and accept the court’s ruling,” the statement read. “We will continue to fully cooperate with the special prosecutor as he reviews this matter.”
Sheila O’Brien, the former Illinois Appellate Court judge who petitioned to have a special prosecutor appointed, leading to Webb’s appointment, didn’t object to Webb continuing in the role but expressed concern with public perception.
“The concern I have is not what we do in the courtroom but what the person on the street thinks,” O’Brien said.