Bound in handcuffs, Belleville woman is interrogated by FBI about Judge Michael Cook

News-DemocratMay 24, 2013 

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook during his swearing in ceremony in 2010.

DERIK HOLTMANN/BND — dholtmann@bnd.com Buy Photo

— "You had to see him. We watched him come into your house."

That's what an FBI agent told Linda Gibson said as she sat handcuffed and terrified in her 309 N. 38th St. Belleville home, her dogs curled at her feet as federal agents searched the premises.

Moments earlier, at about 6 p.m. Wednesday, she said she had answered a pounding on her back door only to find FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents, one of whom shouted, "Get your hands up. Face the wall."

Gibson, 61, who was not charged with any crime, said the "him" the agents referred to was St. Clair Circuit Court Judge Mike Cook, a longtime friend of the family and a buddy of her 34-year-old son, Sean McGilvery.

"He never came into the house. Mike never did. I never saw him," she said during an interview Friday morning. "They said they watched him go inside. They said he was here. But I never saw him."

Attempts to reach a spokesman at the U.S. Attorney's office were unsuccessful. Federal authorities rarely comment about ongoing investigations.

Cook, a circuit judge since 2010 and son of powerful Belleville lawyer and Democratic Party supporter Bruce Cook, was arraigned Friday morning in federal court in East St. Louis on heroin and weapons charges.

After sitting handcuffed while agents searched her home, Gibson said she was led out the back door and around the side where she encountered Cook sitting in one of her plastic lawn chairs guarded by a federal agent. She said she could not remember whether he was handcuffed.

"He was looking down but when I walked by he looked up and said, 'Hi,'" Gibson said.

"I guess I said 'hi' back. They took me to a van and I never saw Mike again. His red truck was parked in front of the house."

Gibson said she was questioned at length about drugs being in her house and said she had no knowledge of any. After about a half hour in the van where questioning continued, she said she was released.

Her son, Sean McGilvery, who she said had gone to a McDonald's restaurant about 20 minutes earlier, was arrested at another location and charged with federal counts of conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute heroin. Gibson said her son was a recovering heroin addict who was receiving treatment.

"I don't know anything about any drugs in this house," she said, "No. Nothing. None at all and I'm very upset about my son."

Gibson said that Mike Cook had been a friend of her family for many years and once represented her ex-husband on workers' compensation matters, a legal representation she said he transferred to another attorney when he became a judge.

"He was a family friend. That's all. We've known him for years. He helped us move here," she said. "He would borrow things, sometimes, little things. Like tools."

St. Clair County Court records show that Cook was McGilvery's lawyer in a 1999 case involving a car accident that resulted in a $6,000 award.

In December 2011, Cook was the judge in a case where McGilvery was charged with possessing cocaine. Cook ordered that McGilvery complete a drug treatment program and after that occurred the charge was dismissed.

Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at gpawlaczyk@bnd.com and 239-2625.

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