Justice gets rebalanced

February 27, 2014 

U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade is working hard to ensure that the scales of justice balance in the Michael Cook case.

He said he doesn't want to throw the book at Cook over heroin possession and weapons charges simply because Cook was a St. Clair County circuit judge. However, McDade said that based on the findings in a revised presentence investigation, the 18-month sentence agreed to in a plea deal simply is not enough.

It's unusual for a judge to second-guess the deals that prosecutors and defendants negotiate. U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton and Cook probably are furious right now.

The presentence investigation is sealed, so the public doesn't know the details in it. However, people do know the concerns that prompted McDade to order a second investigation -- that Cook used drugs for years while on the bench and didn't seek treatment for his addiction and that his actions disrupted governmental functions and caused a loss of public confidence.

It seems to us that McDade was right to reject the plea deal.

Wigginton's attorneys and Cook's attorneys now have three weeks to either negotiate a sentence that better serves justice or be prepared to go to trial. Stay tuned.

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