Judge: Cook may deserve longer prison sentence

News-DemocratJanuary 9, 2014 

In a November 2013 file photo, Michael Cook tries to make his way past reporters and camera crews outside the federal courthouse on the day he was sentenced on drug and gun possession charges.

DERIK HOLTMANN — Derik Holtmann/BND

— - A federal judge presiding over the heroin possession and weapons case against former St. Clair County Judge Michael Cook said there is reason for Cook to receive more than the 18 months recommended by federal prosecutors.

Cook pleaded guilty on Nov. 8 to the charges in exchange for the recommendation of 18 months.

Joe Billy McDade, the federal judge from the Central District of Illinois appointed to preside over the case, ordered Wednesday that the U.S. Probation Office investigate, prepare and distribute a supplemental presentence report.

According to McDade's order, the original pre-sentence investigation stated that there were no "factors that would warrant a departure from the applicable sentencing guideline range."

McDade disagreed.

McDade stated he could identify three reasons for departure from the recommended sentence:

* Given his status as a judge, the extensive duration of Cook's criminal conduct without any effort to obtain treatment for his drug addiction.

* The disruption of governmental functions.

* Loss of public confidence in the judicial system caused by defendant's criminal conduct.

He also stated that the sentence should "reflect the seriousness of the crime" and the need for "adequate deterrence to criminal conduct.

"Due to the pending nature of the case and the judge's request for additional information, it would not be appropriate for me to comment at this time," said U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton.

Bill Lucco, Thomas Q. Keefe and Thomas Q. Keefe III, Cook's lawyers, could not be reached for comment.

Cook, 43, then a sitting St. Clair County Circuit judge, was arrested on May 22 outside Sean McGilvery's home on North 38th Street in Belleville. He later was charged with possession of heroin and being the user of a controlled substance in possession of weapons. Cook resigned from the bench after his arrest.

Cook's sentencing was set for Jan. 17, but now has been delayed until Feb. 26.

The BND ran a story Sunday reporting new details in the investigation of the courthouse scandal including an FBI informant's assertion that Cook had a "user's relationship" with McGilvery, who would become his main heroin supplier before he became a judge in 2007.

The story resulted from the unsealing in December of previously sealed search warrant affidavits under a new administrative rule signed by the four U.S. District of Southern Illinois District Judges.

Those search warrants sought Cook's and McGilvery's cellphone records and permission to search Cook and McGilvery's homes. The cell phone records detail contacts between Cook, McGilvery and former prosecutor Joe Christ, who died 10 days after his appointment to the bench as an associate judge.

The affidavit, signed by an FBI agent, stated there were more than 2,000 calls between Cook and McGilvery from March 10, 2012, to March 10, 2013 -- the day Christ's body was discovered at the Cook family hunting cabin in Pike County. It was later revealed that Christ died from cocaine intoxication.

It is unknown whether McDade, who normally sits in Peoria, knew of these details.

In his order, McDade references the original pre-sentence report that stated:

"Specifically, the defendant was a Circuit Court Judge and presided over cases involving the very conduct for which he is now convicted. The potential impact of his conduct, in how it may have affected trial he presided over and sentences he imposed while addicted to illegal substances, are immeasurable yet cannot be ignored. In addition, based on his based on his position in the community, his actions erode public confidence in the judicial system."

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570. Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at gpawlaczyk@bnd.com or 618-239-2625.

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