U.S. attorney: Courthouse drug scandal investigation is 'ongoing and dynamic'

News-DemocratMay 28, 2013 

— After a hearing for a St. Clair County probation officer who told an FBI agent that he sold cocaine to two judges, one of whom died as a result, U.S. Attorney Steve Wigginton told reporters that the investigation is gaining momentum.

"It's an ongoing investigation with lots of moving parts," Wigginton said Tuesday. " ... It's wide open and not limited to the St. Clair County Courthouse."

Wigginton was at the federal courthouse for the arraignment of St. Clair County Probation Officer James K. Fogarty, who is accused of distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

Fogarty, 45, of Belleville, pleaded not guilty. He waived his preliminary hearing and remains in federal custody pending a detention hearing that is scheduled for next Tuesday.

The case will go before a grand jury in the next 30 days, Wigginton said. If found guilty, Fogarty could face 10 years to life in prison.

According to a court complaint, Fogarty told federal investigators he sold $280 worth of cocaine, or about an eighth of an ounce, to county judges Mike Cook and Joe Christ the day before both went to a hunting cabin in Pike County, Ill., owned by Cook's father, Belleville attorney Bruce Cook. The large camp, listed at more than 2,500 square feet in county property records, is in a very remote wooded area near Pleasant Hill.

St. Clair County Associate Judge Joe Christ died March 10 at the cabin from cocaine toxicity, and his body was found by Cook, according to Pike County Sheriff Paul Petty, who also serves as coroner.

Cook, 43, who has been a judge since 2007 and was elected a circuit judge in 2010, was arrested May 22 by the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents outside a home on North 38th St., in Belleville.

On Friday, he was arraigned in federal court on charges that he possessed heroin, a misdemeanor, and possessed firearms while being under the influence of heroin, a felony. He pleaded not guilty and was released on a $10,000 recognizance bond that did not require him to post any cash.

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly has filed hundreds of motions to remove Cook as the judge on cases on the judge's docket.

A number of interviews have been completed regarding the investigation with more expected to follow, Wigginton said.

"Anyone with information about this is asked to come forward," Wigginton said. "It's better for you to come forward than for us to come and find you."

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