CHICAGO (FOX 32 NEWS) - A Cook County judge selected former U.S. attorney Dan Webb to be the special prosecutor overseeing the investigation into the handling of the Jussie Smollett case.
Webb is arguably Chicago's most high-profile defense attorney of the last few decades and has been tapped five times previously to serve as a special prosecutor. Webb gained prominence for his lead role during the Operation Greylord investigations into judicial corruption in Cook County.
He served as special counsel in the Iran-Contra affair and was previously appointed by Judge Toomin in the death of David Koschman.
Webb told reporters after Friday's hearing that he was heading into the investigation with no preconceived notions about an outcome.
"I don't know where this case is going. The facts will take me where I they take me," he said, adding that he couldn't provide a precise timetable but would move the investigation along as quickly as possible.
Smollett told police he was walking home early on Jan. 29 when two masked men approached him, made racist and homophobic insults, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing. He said his assailants, at least one of whom he said was white, told him he was in "MAGA country" -- a reference to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again."
Several weeks later, authorities alleged that Smollett had paid two black friends $3,500 to help him stage the attack because he was unhappy with his salary as an actor on "Empire" and wanted to drum up publicity for his career.
The Cook County state's attorney's office charged Smollett in February with 16 counts of disorderly conduct for purportedly orchestrating the incident. A month later, prosecutors dropped all charges with little explanation.
Among the options available to Webb would be to restore charges against Smollett, who continues to maintain the January incident wasn't staged.
In his June ruling, Toomin suggested that the county's state's attorney, Kim Foxx, mishandled the Smollett case by appointing a top aide to oversee it after she recused herself.
Foxx had been in contact with a Smollett relative and was approached by former first lady Michelle Obama's one-time chief of staff on behalf of Smollett's family. Foxx explained at the time she was recusing herself to avoid "even the perception of a conflict" of interest.
In his ruling, Toomin said he had no problem with Foxx's February recusal but that it should have included a request for a special prosecutor. He said she had no right to hand it off to someone from her office, which he said amounted to naming her own special prosecutor.
Foxx has said Smollett was treated no differently than thousands of other defendants in low-level cases whose charges have been similarly dropped. Foxx also publicly wondered if her being black has anything to do with the criticism she has received.
She released a statement Friday pledging her office's "full cooperation" with Webb's investigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.