Coke-dealing ex-probation officer gets 5 years; no blame for judge's death

News-DemocratFebruary 27, 2014 

— Judge Joe Christ begged James Fogarty to get him cocaine on a Friday night before a weekend trip, Fogarty's lawyers said.

Fogarty wasn't the usual "go-to guy" for cocaine purchases by judges Christ and Michael Cook, but he was able to buy an eighth of an ounce of cocaine for $270.

Fogarty made a $10 profit.

Christ died from cocaine toxicity within a day or two of that sale. And if federal prosecutors had been able to prove that Fogarty's cocaine killed Christ, Fogarty would have received a prison sentence greater than the five years he received on Thursday.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Porter said it wasn't because they didn't try. Investigators spent "hours and hours" looking at Christ's death, but found no credible evidence that the cocaine that killed Christ came from Fogarty.

Without the link between Fogarty and the lethal cocaine, U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan said he would accept the plea deal that would send Fogarty, 46, to prison for five years on cocaine distribution and weapons charges.

Fogarty, a former St. Clair County probation officer, is the first former county employee to be sentenced in the courthouse drug scandal. Cook, a former St. Clair County Circuit judge, pleaded guilty to heroin possession and weapons charges but his plea agreement was rejected Wednesday after the judge found it was too lenient. Christ was appointed as an associated judge just 10 days before he was found dead at Cook's hunting cabin in Pike County.

Fogarty will have to serve three years on parole after his release and pay a $500 fine.

Reagan recommended that Fogarty serve his sentence at a federal prison camp in Pensacola, Fla., or Yankton, S.D., to improve the chances Fogarty will not meet the criminals he once supervised. He also recommended Fogarty for a drug treatment program that could take a year off Fogarty's sentence.

But there are other ramifications to Fogarty's felony conviction, Reagan said.

"He's never going to be able to carry a firearm in a professional or recreational manner ever again," Reagan said.

Fogarty attended the hearing in Washington County Jail yellow scrubs. He surrendered himself to begin serving his sentence early, defense attorney Clyde Kuehn said. Fogarty didn't speak but allowed Kuehn to make a statement on his behalf.

"This has been an epiphany for him. He's become sober and in the process he's come to see the egregiousness of his conduct as a probation officer and a law enforcement officer, whose job it was to watch out and supervise the rehabilitation of other inmates," Kuehn said.

At the end of the hearing, Reagan allowed Fogarty's family to sit across the table from him to say goodbye. He told them they could not touch.

After the hearing, Kuehn talked to reporters about the case, but he declined to say whether Fogarty provided drugs to anyone else or whether Fogarty made money selling cocaine.

Fogarty was "mystified" by the high levels of cocaine in Christ's blood, Kuehn said. Christ had "seven times the lethal dose" of cocaine when he died, Kuehn said.

Porter declined to comment after the hearing.

Federal agents went to Fogarty after Cook was arrested on May 22 outside heroin dealer Sean McGilvery's home on North 38th Street in Belleville. Fogarty told them that he used cocaine with Cook and Christ. He also told the agent he hoped Christ didn't die from an overdose.

The weekend trip that began with Christ asking Fogarty for cocaine ended late on Sunday afternoon, March 10, when Cook found Christ on the bathroom floor of his family's hunting cabin in Pike County. A vial containing a white powder was found as Christ's clothing was removed before his autopsy. The vial allowed one "hit" of cocaine to enter a chamber with a tip that would limit the user to inhale no more than a single dose.

Both Cook and Christ's DNA was recovered from the vial.

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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