Christ, Cook dismissed traffic tickets for two accused of selling drugs to them

News-DemocratJune 5, 2013 

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

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In his final days as a St. Clair County prosecutor, Joe Christ recommended that traffic tickets be dismissed for two men accused in federal court documents of selling cocaine and heroin to Christ and his friend, Circuit Judge Michael Cook, and then Cook obliged.

Sean McGilvery, a long-time friend and former client of Cook's, and James K. Fogarty, a former St. Clair County probation officer who admitted to selling drugs to Christ and Cook days before Christ died at Cook's hunting cabin, each had traffic tickets dismissed without a court appearance, a fine or court costs.

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said Wednesday he learned about the ticket dismissals when he conducted an audit of Christ's cases after his death in March.

"Those tickets are part of what's been submitted to the (Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission)," Kelly said.

Clyde Kuehn, Forgarty's lawyer; Bill Lucco, Cook's lawyer, and Rodney Holmes, McGilvery's lawyer, did not return calls for comment.

On Feb. 26, the day before Christ was sworn in as an associate circuit judge, Christ recommended the dismissal of tickets written by a Belleville police officer to McGilvery on Feb. 11 for having an expired driver's license and registration. McGilvery, 34, didn't renew his driver's license until two days after the tickets were dismissed, according to Illinois Secretary of State records.

The license plates on his mother's car weren't renewed until March 29, more than a month after the ticket was dismissed, state records showed.

On Feb. 25, Christ asked Cook to dismiss a ticket issued to Fogarty for disobeying a railroad crossing device. The ticket was issued by a Norfolk Southern Railroad agent, who stopped Fogarty at the Missouri Avenue railroad crossing in East St. Louis on Feb. 13. The fine for such a ticket is usually $250.

As a prosecutor, Christ primarily handled felony cases and Cook was assigned to hear felony cases. Neither routinely handled traffic cases.

Cook was arrested May 22 outside McGilvery's home on N. 38th St. in Belleville. He was charged with federal possession of heroin and being a drug user in possession of a firearm. The next day, federal prosecutors charged McGilvery with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute heroin and Fogarty with possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Christ died on March 10 -- 10 days after taking the bench as an associate judge. A toxicology report showed Christ died of cocaine overdose at a Pike County hunting cabin owned by Bruce Cook, a prominent Belleville plaintiff's lawyer and father of Mike Cook.

Fogarty, during the interview at his home on the day Cook was arrested, told an FBI agent that he used cocaine with Christ and Cook. He said the judges split an eight-ball of cocaine, about an eighth of an ounce, paying about $140 apiece.

Cook also presided over a 2011 drug possession case against McGilvery. Cook ordered McGilvery to complete a local drug program before the case was dismissed, according to federal court records.

Fogarty, 44, is currently on home detention, awaiting trial on the federal charges. Cook, 43, resigned his position as a judge after he was charged and is in treatment at a Minnesota rehabilitation center. McGilvery, 34, remains in federal custody.

Kelly said he and Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Porter continue to review the cases Christ handled to determine whether there are any "concerns that may impact cases."

Lisa Porter is married to Assistant U.S. Attorney James Porter, who is prosecuting Cook, McGilvery and Fogarty in federal court. The Appellate Prosecutor's Office is also reviewing the cases.

"This is a man-made disaster. No one from (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is going to come and clean this up," Kelly said.

"A significant amount of manpower will be consumed in reviewing these cases of ... former Judge Cook, Joe Christ and, to some extent, probation officer Jim Fogarty. It's a good reminder that we are a government of laws and not men."

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 239-2570.

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