Cook presided over cases for friend, accused drug dealers

News-DemocratMay 24, 2013 

— Suspended Circuit Court Judge Michael Cook's long-time friend, Sean McGilvery, has been named a co-defendant in a high-volume heroin distribution case allegedly run by a mother and son team from Fairview Heights previously charged with concealing the drug overdose death of a 30-year-old woman.

McGilvery, 34, of Belleville, was charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute more than two pounds of heroin. McGilvery, who pleaded not guilty, resided at 309 N. 38th St. in Belleville, the same address where the home's owner, McGilvery's mother Linda Gibson, said Cook was arrested Wednesday evening by federal agents.

On Friday, Cook was charged with possessing heroin and a felony weapons charge. He pleaded not guilty.

Also charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin are Deborah A. Perkins, 64, and her 46-year-old son, Douglas W. Oliver. They were charged Sept. 5 with moving the body of Jessica Williams from their Fairview Heights home and dumping it in Washington Park. An autopsy showed Williams died from a heroin overdose.

Cook, 43, was arraigned Friday in federal court in East St. Louis on charges of being a heroin user in possession of a firearm. He was also charged with a misdemeanor count of heroin possession. He pleaded not guilty and was released on a $10,000 recognizance bond that did not require he post cash. He could not be reached for comment.

In addition to being friends for years, McGilvery is also linked to Cook through a 1999 injury liability case where Cook was his lawyer, and in a 2011 drug possession case where Cook was the judge. Cook dismissed the felony drug possession charge in May 2012 after McGilvery completed a drug treatment program.

According to the Illinois Judicial Code of Conduct, a judge shall disqualify himself in a proceeding in which the judge's impartiality might reasonably be questioned, including when a judge has a bias toward a party, such as a close personal friend.

Court records show that retired circuit judge Milton Wharton received McGilvery's case on Dec. 16, 2011, for arraignment. Wharton stayed on the case for three-and-a-half months until McGilvery's lawyer, Charles Baricevic, asked for a continuance because he had a conflict with another scheduled case. After that, and without a motion for substitution of judge, Cook took over McGilvery's drug case and dismissed it March 19, 2012. Judges can sometimes be reassigned in a case without a motion for substitution.

Prosecutors charged Perkins and Oliver with concealment of a homicidal death on Sept. 5. The charges were connected to the death of Williams, whose decomposing body was found on a trash pile in Washington Park in March 2012. She had died of an overdose.

Perkins posted $10,000 cash and was released the same day.

Oliver's bond was reduced to $75,000 by St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic. Oliver was released on electronic monitoring on Sept. 6 -- the day after he was charged.

Less than three weeks later, Jennifer Herling, 20, was found unconscious at the same home at 20 Kassing Drive in Fairview Heights. She later died at Memorial Hospital in Belleville. Perkins and Oliver were not charged in connection to her death.

Herling and Williams were friends, said Jackie Keel, Herling's grandmother. While Williams was missing, Herling directed police to the 20 Kassing Drive house where Perkins and Oliver live, Keel said.

Keel wrote a letter on March 20, 2012, to Cook, who had become the judge on the case, pleading for Perkins and Oliver to be charged with Herling's murder. Court rules prohibit a judge from answering such a letter and Cook did not respond.

In January, Cook signed an order continuing the case. He then signed another order two months later delaying the case again.

On May 16, 2012, Cook wrote an order rescheduling Oliver's concealing a homicidal death case to July 15 and moving a new unlawful delivery of a controlled substance case against Oliver to his courtroom. There was no substitution of judge filed in either case.

Perkins appeared before Circuit Judge Milton Wharton on Sept. 5. Baricevic arraigned her case on Sept. 14 to Circuit Judge Jan Fiss, but Perkins' lawyer asked the case to be reassigned. Baricevic set the case for reassignment on Oct. 25. The case was then assigned to Cook.

On Feb. 21, Cook delayed the case and noted that Perkins had a case pending in federal court. Cook then consolidated the concealment of a homicidal death case with a newly filed possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance case in his courtroom.

A court affidavit accompanying the federal heroin distribution charges against McGilvery alleges that he conspired with a confidential informant to combine their funds to buying large amounts of heroin during more than 20 trips to Chicago. In November 2011, the affidavit alleged, McGilvery was receiving $2,500 to $5,000 worth of heroin every two weeks.

The large purchases, including one that totaled $50,000, were similar to the details included in federal charges against Perkins and Oliver.

Belleville News-Democrat is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service