Will ex-judge Cook be sentenced or will he withdraw guilty plea?

News-DemocratMarch 27, 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

Former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook will appear in federal court on Friday to either be sentenced on heroin possession and weapons charges or withdraw his guilty plea.

Cook pleaded guilty to the charges in November in exchange for an 18-month prison sentence. U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade declined to accept the agreement because the prison sentence wasn't sufficient.

A series of documents has been filed in the case in the last week, but they have all been filed under seal.

During a hearing earlier this month, McDade said he wanted a decision from both sides whether there would be another plea agreement presented or if the case would proceed to trial. The hearing is set for Friday when federal prosecutors and Cook's defense lawyers, Bill Lucco, and Thomas Q. Keefe III will reveal if there is another plea deal, or if they will allow the judge to decide the sentence or if the case will go to trial.

If the defense persists in a plea, it will be the final hearing in a nearly yearlong case against Cook.

Cook, 43, who presided over major criminal cases and drug court, 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 two new trials in the case of two men convicted of murder. Cook presided over the trials.

Others involved in the St. Clair County courthouse drug scandal are serving time. McGilvery, 35, a former client and friend of Cook, is serving a 10-year prison sentence on heroin distribution and conspiracy charges. McGilvery is in a federal penitentiary near Marion. Debra Perkins, McGilvery's co-conspirator, is serving a 27-year prison sentence. She is in Aliceville, Ala. Her son, Douglas Oliver, is currently in a Wisconsin federal prison serving a 30-year prison sentence.

Perkins' and Oliver's sentences were enhanced because their heroin distribution resulted in the deaths of Jessica Williams and Jennifer Herling.

Former Probation Officer James Fogarty was sentenced to five years on cocaine distribution charges. Fogarty is in a low-security federal prison in Tallahassee, Fla.

Contact reporter Beth Hundsdorfer at bhundsdorfer@bnd.com or 618-239-2570.

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