Federal judge from Peoria will preside over Cook case

News-DemocratSeptember 11, 2013 

Booking photo of former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook of Belleville.

WASHINGTON CO. SHERIFF'S DEPT. — Washington Co. Sheriff's Dept.

— A federal judge from Peoria has been assigned to hear the drug and weapons violation case against former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Mike Cook.

A spokeswoman for U.S. District Court Judge Joe Billy McDade said a telephone conference was Monday with the attorneys in the case. A formal order signed by Chief Judge David Herndon of the Southern District was filed on Tuesday.

The telephone conference involved dates previously set in the case that, at least for the time being, will remain the same. The final pretrial hearing is Sept. 23 and trial is set for Oct. 1.

McDade, 75, was nominated for the federal bench by President George H. W. Bush, a Republican, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1991. He was a state circuit court judge and former staff attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice Anti-Trust Division from 1963-65.

The case was initially assigned in the Southern District in East St. Louis to Herndon, who recused himself, and then to U.S. District Court Judge William Stiehl, who also recused himself, saying he thought it would be "simpler" for a judge from outside the district to preside.

Herndon has said any judge from outside the district would most likely travel to federal court in East St. Louis.

Cook, 43, is charged with misdemeanor heroin possession and a felony count of being a heroin user in possession of a firearm. He resigned his judgeship and agreed to attend a drug rehabilitation center in Minnesota and to the suspension of his law license. He was released without being required to post cash.

Cook is the son of Bruce Cook, a Belleville lawyer who specializes in civil litigation and has been active for decades in St. Clair County Democratic politics.

Mike Cook was arrested in May by the FBI outside the Belleville residence of Cook's friend, Sean McGilvery, who remains in federal custody on heroin distribution charges.

In March, Cook was at hunting lodge owned by his family in rural Pike County where newly named St. Clair County Associate Judge Joe Christ died of cocaine toxicity.

James Fogarty, a former county probation officer, also is charged in a case linked to Cook and Christ through statements to the FBI now on file in federal court. In those documents, Fogarty, who is free on electronic monitoring, stated that he sold cocaine to both judges shortly before they went on a trip to the hunting camp.

In 2009, according to the Chicago Tribune, McDade apologized in writing to federal 7th Circuit Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook for violating court regulations by allowing television and still cameras into a court proceeding involving a school district in Champaign. Easterbrook imposed no disciplinary action.

McDade said at the time he thought that because the hearing, which concerned reducing the achievement gap between black and white students, was of great public interest he could waive the no cameras rule.

Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at gpawlaczyk@bnd.com or 618-239-2625.

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