EAST ST. LOUIS — A former St. Clair County probation officer pleaded guilty Wednesday to selling cocaine to two judges including one who died from ingesting this type of drug.
But James K. Fogarty was admonished by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Reagan that a proposed plea bargain of five years in prison would not be accepted if it could be shown that the sale of an "eight ball," or an eighth of an ounce of cocaine, about a day or two before then Associate Judge Joe Christ died could be proven to have resulted in Christ's death.
Belleville attorney Clyde Kuehn, who along with his son Justin Kuehn represents Fogarty, said, "We knew this going in."
Former county circuit judge Mike Cook, whose arrest on May 22 caught him up in a courthouse drug scandal, is set to plead guilty Friday to a misdemeanor heroin possession charge and to being a user in possession of a firearm. No firearm was found on his person when he was arrested.
An investigation is still ongoing by the U.S. attorney's office concerning the relationship of Fogarty's admitted sale of cocaine to Christ and Cook. According to court documents, Fogarty admitted to regularly selling cocaine to Christ and Cook and using it with them including a sale that he told an FBI agent "probably" occurred on March 8. This sale could be crucial to the U.S. Attorney's ongoing investigation of whether there is a direct link to cocaine sold by Fogarty to Christ's death.
Fogarty pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine and unlawful user in possession of a firearm. Reagan set Fogarty's sentencing for Feb. 28 and Fogarty voluntarily was taken into custody.
"He wanted to admit his guilt and get on with his life," Kuehn said.
On March 9, Christ and Cook traveled to rural Pike County to attend a quail hunting banquet and spent the night at a hunting lodge owned by Cook's family. The next day, on Sunday evening, a clearly shaken Cook called 911 to report that his friend Christ was not conscious and lay on a bathroom floor. Christ was declared dead shortly after the 911 call.
According to Pike County Coroner and Sheriff Paul Petty, an autopsy showed that Christ died of acute cocaine toxicity.
U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton said that the a wide investigation of the courthouse drug scandal is still ongoing, including sales of cocaine by Fogarty.
"We are following a number of leads into this drug conspiracy," he said, "although we have narrowed it down."
Fogarty, 46, is the latest figure to plead guilty in the courthouse drug scandal that became public on May 22 when Cook, 43, was arrested outside the Belleville home of his friend Sean McGilvery. McGilvery, 34, in court documents, has stated that Cook bought heroin from him "almost daily." McGilvery has since pleaded guilty to selling heroin.
Cook, the former St. Clair County drug judge, once ruled on a drug case involving McGilvery.
The scandal includes guilty pleas by Deborah Perkins, 65, and her son, Douglas Oliver, 47, who admitted they conspired with McGilvery to buy relatively large quantities of heroin in Chicago and resell the drug in the metro-east, often from their former home at 20 Kassing Drive in Fairview Heights.
The heroin overdose deaths of two women are linked to 20 Kassing Drive. The death of Jessica Williams, who prosecutors have said died at 20 Kassing Drive, resulted in state charges against Perkins and Oliver. Williams' decomposed body was found in Washington Park, where Perkins and Oliver allegedly dumped it.
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at email@example.com or 239-2625.