A special prosecutor will take another look at the case and how it was handled.
The on-again, off-again case involving TV star Jussie Smollett and his phony claim of being attacked back in February by racist Trump supporters is back on.
In what must be one of the weirdest criminal investigations ever to hit Cook County — or Illinois, for that matter — a Chicago judge last week reopened the Smollett matter by announcing that he's appointing a special prosecutor to re-examine the case. In addition, Circuit Judge Michael Toomin directed the special prosecutor, who has yet to be named, to investigate possible criminal conduct surrounding Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's bizarre decision to dismiss the case with no real penalties.
Foxx's handling of the case, to put it mildly, stinks to high heaven, so Toomin's decision, while surprising, is certainly welcome.
The Smollett case, by itself, is hardly a show-stopper. A minor character on the TV show "Empire," Smollett falsely reported to Chicago police that he was subjected to an anti-black, anti-gay attack by Trump backers wearing Make American Great Again hats, an assault he said he easily fended off.
Despite the story being preposterous on its face, the alleged event made national news that prompted a chorus of hand-wringing about our depraved society.
Smollett's story, however, quickly fell apart under scrutiny. It turned out, however, that Smollett hired two African brothers to fake the attack on him.
It's unclear why Smollett would do something so stupid. Some have speculated that he hoped it might raise his personal profile and enhance his career.
Smollett ultimately was charged with the felony offense of filing a police report. So far, it's no big deal — just a costly scam pulled on society that drew lots of negative attention to Chicago.
Foxx's mishandling of the case is what drove it to a scandalous level. For starters, she announced she was recusing herself from the case, something she did not, in fact, do.
Behind the scenes, she was pushing her chief deputy to dismiss the case with no acknowledgement by Smollett that his conduct was inappropriate. Indeed, he's still sticking by his obviously phony story.
While Foxx's conduct was the subject of widespread public attention, most people in Chicago figured it was just another political fix for someone with connections.
But retired appellate judge Sheila O'Brien upset the apple cart by making it her personal mission to secure the appointment of a special prosecutor, a move vehemently opposed by Foxx's office.
On Friday, Toomin issued a 21-page order granting O'Brien's request.
"The unprecedented irregularities identified in this case warrant the appointment of independent counsel to restore the public's confidence in the criminal justice system," he wrote.
In making the decision, Toomin found that Foxx's announced recusal required the appointment of a special prosecutor, that Foxx could not simply hand the matter over to a deputy.
It remains to be seen if Foxx's office will appeal Toomin's decision. The Smollett case already has proven to be a political disaster for Foxx, who's running for re-election in 2020. So it's incumbent on her to head this case off at the pass, if she can, before it blows both Smollett and her political career sky-high.