Source: Illinois Bar Association
Proof that drug use and abuse is not solely the problem of the poor and disenfranchised was made apparent in the case of a former Illinois judge just last week.
A federal judge refused to accept terms of a plea agreement that would have sent former St. Clair County Judge Michael Cook to prison.
Judge Michael Cook ’s plea deal to a misdemeanor charge of heroin possession and a felony charge of being a drug user in possession of a firearm carried an agreed-upon penalty of 18 months pursuant to a little used provision that took the sentencing discretion away from McDade. The Judge’s only option was to accept or reject the deal. He rejected it.
Judge Michael Cook resigned after exposure of a drug scandal that cost the life of Associate Judge Joseph Christ who died of a cocaine overdose March 10 in the Cook family hunting lodge in Pike County, Ill., about 65 miles northwest of St. Louis. The scandal also ensnared former probation officer James K. Fogarty and others.
At the time of Christ’s death, Judge Michael Cook offered no explanation as to what might have caused it.
Five days later, Judge Michael Cook told Paul Petty, who is Pike County’s sheriff and coroner, that the two had used cocaine the day before Christ’s death and that Christ “brought … out” the cocaine on the drive to the lodge.
Judge Michael Cook , of Belleville, admitted at his guilty plea that he was a heroin addict. Cook was arrested outside of the house of his heroin dealer, Sean McGilvey. Warrants say that a drug delivery charge against McGilvery was dismissed by both Cook and Christ when neither was assigned the case.
Christ drafted an order dismissing two traffic cases against McGilvery, and Cook signed the order. Neither was handling traffic cases at the time, investigators wrote.
Judge Michael Cook is the son of Bruce Cook, of Belleville, a well-known personal injury lawyer and major behind-the-scenes player in local and national Democratic Party politics.
Judge Michael Cook was an assistant public defender and former member of his father’s practice. He was selected as an associate judge in 2007, appointed to a vacancy to be a circuit judge in 2010 and elected to a six-year term, as a Democrat, later that year.
Two men convicted in front of Judge Michael Cook of murder have won retrials after raising concerns about the judge´s drug connections, and some other criminal defendants who appeared before him have been allowed to withdraw guilty pleas.
U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade called the sentence “not sufficient” and said the facts of the case supported a longer sentence. But McDade also said that he would not “throw the book at him” just because Michael Cook was a judge.
McDade wrote that Judge Michael Cook’s status as a judge; his longtime drug use and the disruption of governmental functions were reasons that merited a higher sentence. He also ordered a report on how Judge Michael Cook’s actions affected cases in front of him, and whether it had affected public confidence in the judicial system.