'Bad is my middle name': Belleville judge faces heroin, gun charges

News-DemocratMay 24, 2013 

St. Clair County Probation Officer James K. Fogarty told a federal agent that he sold cocaine to the late Circuit Judge Joe Christ before Christ's death, according to an affidavit signed by a federal agent.

Fogarty was charged Friday with felony distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

At one point during the interview Wednesday evening at Fogarty's home, the federal agent told Fogarty that Circuit Judge Michael Cook had just been arrested on federal drug charges. Forgarty responded, "he's (expletive)," according to the affidavit.

Cook stood in a federal courtroom Friday morning wearing cut-offs, a "Bad is my middle name" T-shirt and shackles as he was arraigned on federal charges of possessing a weapon while using drugs and possession of heroin.

He pleaded not guilty.

U.S. Magistrate Clifford Proud allowed Cook to go free on the condition that he be placed in drug treatment, surrender his passport, stay out of trouble and away from drugs until his trial.

The T-shirt and shorts is what Cook was wearing when he was arrested by federal agents Wednesday night at a home on North 38th Street in Belleville where a friend and former client live. That man, Sean McGilvery, 34, of Belleville, was charged late Thursday on two federal counts, conspiracy to distribute, and possession with intent to distribute heroin.

Fogarty, during the interview at his home, told FBI Agent Joe Murphy that he used cocaine with Christ and Cook. He went on to tell Murphy that the judges split an eight-ball of cocaine, about an eighth of an ounce, paying about $140 apiece.

Forgarty told Murphy that he remembered hoping that it wasn't an overdose when he'd heard that Christ died.

Fogarty related a conversation that he had with Cook a couple of days after Christ's death. Fogarty talked to Cook in his chambers and Cook told Forgarty that he heard a bang and went into the bathroom of the Pike County hunting cabin where the two were staying and found Christ dead on the floor, according to the affidavit.

Fogarty estimated that Cook had been to his residence 15-20 times and used cocaine approximately 10 times and occasionally at golf outings, the affidavit stated.

A trial date for Cook was set for July 15 before U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan, who later Friday morning recused himself and reassigned the case to U.S. District Judge William Stiehl.

Cook is represented by Bill Lucco of Edwardsville and Mike Nester of Belleville.

The maximum penalty on the weapons charge is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, and for the heroin possession charge it's a year behind bars and a $100,000 fine.

Cook's bond was set at $10,000, but he was not required to put up any cash to go free. His probation officer will determine whether he must go to a residential treatment facility or an out-patient facility. He will be tested for drugs as a condition of his release.

Federal prosecutors asked that Cook be detained in a medical facility for treatment, but Proud granted the defense's request that Cook be released and treated.

The federal charges were one felony count of being a user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm as well as a misdemeanor count of heroin possession.

Cook has been a judge since 2010. He was a criminal court judge and typically would hear drug cases on Wednesdays.

Cook is the son of Bruce Cook, a prominent personal injury attorney in Belleville who is a major contributor to the local Democratic Party. Neither Bruce Cook nor Michael Cook's family attended the hearing.

The hunting cabin in rural Pike County, near Pleasant Hill, Ill., is owned by Bruce and Sandra Cook, but friends said Michael Cook used it often.

Fogarty and McGilvery also were set for arraignment Friday, but those hearings were postponed. Federal authorities requested that a public defender be brought in to represent McGilvery. His arraignment has been reset for Thursday. Fogarty will be arraigned Tuesday.

After saying Thursday that he could not talk due to the federal investigation, Pike County Coroner Paul Petty confirmed Friday that Christ died of cocaine intoxication, and that traces of cocaine and drug paraphernalia were found near Christ's body. Christ's death had been under investigation since the judge died in March.

The developments have shaken the courthouse and cast suspicions on the integrity of the legal system. The story broke Thursday after Chief Judge John Baricevic confirmed that Cook was the subject of a federal investigation.

Baricevic said Friday he had no reason to suspect the judges' conduct on the bench was ever inappropriate and no complaints were filed against either judge.

"It might even be a relief to say we missed this clue or that clue, but that has not happened," Baricevic said. "There is no excuse for Michael Cook or Joe Christ's conduct, but I think it is important the public know we watch for those things. If those clues arise, action is taken. The best we can tell illegal activities remained outside the parameter of their work on the bench."

Baricevic said he is personally reviewing all of the criminal cases overseen by Cook to determine whether Cook's alleged criminal behavior influenced their outcomes.

"Certainly this is an issue I, as chief, and other judges will address to ensure we give the public the service they deserve," Baricevic said. "There is no question that when any judge violates the law there are appropriate questions that need to be answered."

A review of Christ's caseload has already been completed and no issues have been found. Christ had overseen considerably fewer cases because he sat on the bench only 10 days before his death.

"There is no indication there was a corruption of their bench duties, but the investigation is ongoing," Baricevic said.

No one involved in those cases, attorneys or otherwise, have come forward yet to ask for a review, Baricevic said.

On Thursday, more than 500 cases were reassigned and St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly filed complaints against Cook with the Judicial Review Board as well as the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. Cook's office was sealed and search warrants were issued for his office, home and a hunting cabin owned by his family.

Christ, 49, a longtime St. Clair County prosecutor, had only been on the bench about a week before his death. Cook is 43 and lives in Belleville. He graduated from law school in 1999 and became a judge in 2007.

Cook was arrested Wednesday night at 309 N. 38th St. in Belleville, the home of Cook's friend, McGilvery, and McGilvery's mother, Linda Gibson, 61.

According to the affidavit signed by Drug Enforcement Task Force member Neal Rohlfing, a confidential source said that McGilvery traveled with that person to Chicago to purchase heroin. In November 2011, McGilvery was receiving up to $5,000 every two weeks in heroin, the affidavit stated.

McGilvery contributed $20,000 toward the purchase of heroin in December 2012. By January, McGilvery was purchasing 20-30 grams of heroin at a time, the affidavit stated.

Cook filed a lawsuit on behalf of McGilvery in 1999 after the client was involved in an auto accident. The case settled for $6,000.

Twelve years later, Cook sat as a judge in a case of possession of cocaine against McGilvery. Cook ordered on May 29 that McGilvery's drug case be dismissed after McGilvery attended drug treatment. The case originally before another judge but later was reassigned to Cook, court documents show.

Some information for this story was contributed by BND reporter Dan Kelley.

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