The Cook County Democratic Party took the unusual step of failing to recommend a sitting judge, Judge Michael Toomin, for re-election in November Monday — the same judge who appointed a special prosecutor to look into whether Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx gave former “Empire” star Jussie Smollett special treatment.
Toni Preckwinkle, the Cook County Board President, is head of the Cook County Democrats, and she’s both an ally of Foxx and an opponent of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who crushed her in last year’s mayoral election.
“The move set off a political firestorm,” the Chicago Tribune noted, with Toomin, who appointed special prosecutor Dan Webb to look into the Smollett case, arguing that close-knit Chicago Democrats wanted him punished for questioning Foxx.
“Toomin, who is asking voters throughout the county to vote for retaining him, presided over an effort to name a special prosecutor in the case of the actor accused of staging a hate crime against himself in Chicago, where he used to live. Toomin said he believes the effort to bounce him from the bench stems from his decision to appoint Dan Webb to look into why the state’s attorney’s office dropped all 16 felony charges against Smollett last year,” the Tribune reported late Monday.
“What this appears to be is retaliation for some perceived failing of my service as a presiding judge, and retaliation means in this case a blatant rejection of the overruling conflict of judicial independence,” Toomin told the paper. “It just seems like it was preordained, that this was the way it was supposed to be, and they arrived with the result that they wanted to. And that’s wrong.”
Chicago Democrats, who generally endorse all sitting judges for automatic re-election, say they refused to endorse Toomin because of concerns about his record on “juvenile justice.”
As The Daily Wire reported last month, Special Prosecutor Dan Webb found that Foxx’s office had committed a number of “abuses of discretion” and suffered from “operation failures” but did not recommend any criminal charges against the Cook County prosecutor. Webb did, however, revive the case against Smollett, charging Smollett with six counts of lying to police in reference to an alleged racial and homophobic attack that took place in January of 2019.
Smollett is alleged to have orchestrated the attack himself, in concert with a pair of extras he met while working on “Empire.”
Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot weighed in on the Cook County Democrats’ decision not to endorse Toomin “retaliation.”
“Lightfoot, a political rival of Preckwinkle who has supported Foxx, said at an unrelated news conference on Monday that she thinks it’s important to have good ‘independent judges,'” according to the Tribune. “The situation with Toomin has her ‘deeply concerned,’ she said, and ‘the optics of this are terrible.'”
“It looks like retaliation,” Lightfoot said.
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