Will Cook go to trial or seek another plea deal?

News-DemocratMarch 19, 2014 

In a November 2013 file photo, Michael Cook tries to make his way past reporters and camera crews outside the federal courthouse.

DERIK HOLTMANN — Derik Holtmann/BND

U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade told federal prosecutors and the lawyers for former St. Clair County judge Michael Cook he wanted to know by Wednesday if there will be another plea deal or a trial.

There's been a decision.

But it's been filed under seal. The defense and the prosecution declined to comment.

McDade rejected a plea agreement that included an 18-month prison sentence for Cook last month. McDade stated the facts of the case supported a higher sentence.

At that hearing, McDade stated he wanted a decision from both sides whether there would be another plea agreement presented or if the case would proceed to trial. The next hearing date is March 28.

Cook, 43, then a sitting St. Clair County Circuit judge, was arrested 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, turned in his law license and entered drug treatment after he was released on bond.

Circuit Judge Robert Haida, who replaced Cook on the felony docket, ordered retrials in the case of two men who were convicted of murder. Cook presided during both those trials. The defense argued prosecutors should have disclosed Cook was under federal investigation at the time of the trials.

McGilvery, Cook's dealer, family friend and former client, pleaded guilty to heroin distribution charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Two other members of the heroin distribution ring were sentenced to multi-decade prison sentences, Debra Perkins received a 27-year prison sentence. Her son, Douglas Oliver, received a 30-year prison sentence.

Oliver's and Perkins' distribution of heroin resulted in the deaths of two women, Jessica Williams and Jennifer Herling.

St. Clair County Probation Officer James Fogarty is serving a five-year prison sentence on cocaine distribution charges. Fogarty admitted to an FBI agent that he sold and eight-ball of cocaine to newly-appointed associate judge Joe Christ and Cook in the days before Christ was found dead at Cook's hunting cabin in Pike County. He died as a result of cocaine toxicity.

A federal judge found there was no definitive link between the cocaine Fogarty sold to the judges and Christ's death.

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