Dan Webb to remain as special prosecutor in Foxx, Smollett case
Cook County Judge Michael Toomin ruled that Webb will remain as special prosecutor, despite him previously donating $1,000 to Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s political campaign.
Powerhouse attorney Dan Webb will remain as special prosecutor in the investigation of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s handling of the Jussie Smollett case, despite his donation to Foxx’s campaign three years ago.
“Merely contributing to a political campaign is not sufficient” to establish a conflict of interest, Cook County Judge Michael Toomin said during a hearing Friday at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
Last week, Foxx’s personal attorney alerted Webb that, in 2016, he had donated $1,000 to Foxx’s campaign and co-hosted a fundraiser for her. Webb said he immediately brought the contribution, which he did not remember making, to Toomin’s attention.
Webb stressed during and after the hearing that he has no relationship with Foxx and can’t recall ever meeting her.
“Judge Toomin has considered all the facts,” Webb told reporters. “He’s considered the law in Illinois, and he has concluded that I have absolutely no conflict of interest, there’s no appearance of impropriety and, based on these facts, that I should continue as special prosecutor.”
Toomin appointed Webb — a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois — as special prosecutor in August. Webb was tasked with investigating the evidence against the former “Empire” actor and possibly issue new charges, as well as review how Foxx’s office handled the unorthodox decision to drop all charges against the actor.
The criminal charges against Smollett were dropped weeks after a grand jury indicted him for lying to police officers about a hate crime attack he allegedly staged with the help of two acquaintances.
Cathy McNeil-Stein, an assistant state’s attorney, and former appellate judge Sheila O’Brien — who lobbied for the appointment of a special prosecutor — both said public confidence in the investigation’s integrity was paramount.
“That’s really important and it’s important for all of us,” O’Brien told Toomin.
Despite those concerns, there were no motions filed to ask that Webb be replaced.
“I wasn’t quite sure what their point was,” Webb said after the hearing.
In a statement issued after the hearing, the state’s attorney’s office said: “Public trust is paramount to our work. We raised our concerns and accept the court’s ruling. We will continue to fully cooperate with the special prosecutor as he reviews this matter.”
Webb was asked why he never ran a conflict of interest check before his appointment. Again, he stressed that he had never met Foxx.
“I had no recollection of ever having met Kim Foxx, [having] any contact with Kim Foxx, so there was nothing to check,” Webb said. “I had no reason to believe I could ever have a conflict of interest regarding Kim Foxx because I have no contact or connection with her.”
Webb has donated hundreds of thousand dollars to the campaigns of various political figures over the years.
State board of elections records show he contributed $8,000 to the campaign of former Mayor Richard M. Daley between 2001 and 2007.
In 2012, Toomin appointed Webb as a special prosecutor to investigate the death of David Koschman, who died after being punched by R. J. Vanecko, Daley’s nephew.
Webb also contributed to the campaign of former State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, who Foxx ousted in the wake of the release of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.
His campaign contributions over the decades have gone to candidates of both parties, with Webb often donating to Democratic candidates in local races. Campaign finance records show he has made a total of $372,977.66 in contributions to various candidates dating back to 1999.