Cook signed warrants against suspects linked to his alleged dealer

News-DemocratOctober 26, 2013 

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

DERIK HOLTMANN/BND — Derik Holtmann/BND

Months before he was arrested on a heroin possession charge, former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook had the opportunity to question a police officer and an assistant state's attorney about the investigation into the drug distribution ring involving Cook's alleged dealer and his co-conspirators.

St. Clair County Assistant State's Attorney Deb Phillips and a Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southwestern Illinois agent appeared before Cook on Jan. 22 to ask he find probable cause in their heroin distribution case against Deborah Perkins and her son Douglas Oliver.

To establish probable cause for an arrest, a judge can question the prosecutor, the investigating officer or a witness, said retired Fourth Judicial Circuit Judge John Coady.

It isn't clear what happened during the Jan. 22 meeting. When a judge signs a warrant, it isn't done in open court and there is no transcript of the meeting, Coady said.

Records show Cook signed the criminal complaints and arrest warrants against Perkins and Oliver on Jan. 22.

St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly declined to comment, citing the ongoing federal investigation.

Federal agents arrested Cook outside Sean McGilvery's house on North 38th Street in Belleville on May 22. He was later charged with a misdemeanor count of possession of heroin.

Perkins, 65, and Oliver, 47, both of 20 Kassing Drive in Fairview Heights, pleaded guilty in August to federal charges of conspiring with McGilvery, a friend and former client of Cook, in the distribution of heroin. McGilvery, 34, pleaded guilty on Oct. 17. He is expected to receive 10 years in prison.

In the federal case against McGilvery, court documents detail the conspiracy between McGilvery, Oliver and Perkins.

McGilvery would pool his money with Perkins, who would travel to Chicago to purchase heroin. McGilvery was one of Perkins' principal subdealers, according to federal agents.

Also, prosecutors have said Cook purchased heroin almost daily from McGilvery.

When did it start?

Police scrutiny of the house at 20 Kassing Drive might have begun as early as 1999 when Fairview Heights police answered a call reporting a home invasion when a resident was tied up and beaten with a handgun. Police found marijuana in the home. While waiting for crime scene technicians to process the home for evidence, Perkins entered the home and "attempted to destroy a substantial amount of heroin and six firearms they had removed from a hidden compartment of a bedroom" stated a search warrant application filed earlier this year. The application didn't list a specific date for the police report in 1999.

In 2011, Harold Gardner, a 20 Kassing Drive resident, was indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of distribution of heroin. Gardner pleaded guilty to this charge and is awaiting sentencing.

Later in 2011, McGilvery and Katherine O'Malley, the daughter of former Circuit Judge Michael O'Malley, were stopped by Belleville Police, who found crack cocaine in the car.

Jessica Williams, 30, died from an overdose around March 3, 2012, but her body wasn't discovered for nearly three weeks. Her remains were found on a trash pile in Washington Park. Police asked for a search warrant at the home at 20 Kassing Drive on March 20, 2012. They asked for more search warrants the next day, asking to search Oliver's car and obtain DNA samples from Oliver.

Less than a month later, Gardner, who was free on the federal charges, was charged in state court with possession of heroin. This charge is pending.

On May 29, 2012, Cook dismissed the case against McGilvery after Cook noted McGilvery successfully completed drug school. Circuit Judge John Baricevic dismissed the case against O'Malley on May 23, 2012. Her case was later expunged.

Police arrested Perkins and Oliver on Sept. 5, 2012, on charges they concealed Williams' death. Perkins posted $10,000 cash on the day of her arrest Sept. 5, 2012, and was released. The next day, Oliver was released on $7,500 cash.

The cases were later transferred to Cook's docket, where they remained until Cook's arrest.

Within three weeks of Perkins' and Oliver's release, Jennifer Herling, 20, overdosed at the 20 Kassing Drive house.

In December and early January, agents conducted undercover buys at 20 Kassing Drive and cultivated confidential sources connected to the house, according to search warrants filed in St. Clair County. By late January, agents were ready to make their move. They had intelligence about a large heroin buy.

On Jan. 21, agents were watching when Perkins returned from Chicago with 75 grams of heroin. Police learned about the buy from a confidential source about 12 days earlier, a search warrant application stated. Police obtained a search warrant on Jan. 19 for Perkins' and Oliver's home at 20 Kassing Drive in Fairview Heights. They searched the home after Perkins' and Oliver's arrest on Jan. 21.

Perkins was talking to police. She told drug agents that she sold heroin for years, according to court documents.

Perkins and Oliver were charged in federal court. A complaint was filed on Jan. 22-- the same day prosecutor Phillips and an agent stood before Cook asking for a state court warrant.

About seven weeks after that meeting, Joe Christ, a longtime prosecutor and newly sworn associate judge, died while he and Cook were staying at a hunting cabin owned by Cook's family in Pike County. It was later revealed Christ died from cocaine toxicity.

The criminal cases

Cook continued to handle criminal cases on his docket until his May 22 arrest.

Cook presided over a first-degree murder trial the week of April 22. The jury found William Cosby guilty of the shooting death of Antwan "Twix" Thomas outside an East St. Louis bar.

Cosby recently won a new trial in his case after his attorney, C.J. Baricevic, asserted that state court prosecutors should have revealed that Cook was under federal investigation. Public Defender John O'Gara has said that prosecutors became aware that Cook was under investigation in January -- the same month Perkins and Oliver were charged in federal and state court with heroin distribution.

State's Attorney Kelly has said that he could not compromise the federal investigation.

In his case, Cosby asked in a motion filed Aug. 22 for the court to remove Baricevic as his defense lawyer because he refused to raise issues "concerning the judge's conduct, demeanor, impatience and obvious drug problem while presiding over his case."

That motion was denied.

"Mr. Cosby and I have an outstanding working relationship. We have worked together very successfully," Baricevic said.

Baricevic had already filed a motion for a new trial. St. Clair County Circuit Judge Bob Haida overturned Cosby's conviction and ordered a new trial "in the interest of justice."

This week, Gregory Muse, who was also convicted of first-degree murder in a trial presided over by Cook, will ask for a new trial.

During his time on the bench as a circuit judge, Cook presided during 1,705 felony cases.

Cook has pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor heroin and felony weapons charges. His trial is set for Dec. 9.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570.

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