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EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) - A former southwestern Illinois judge at the center of a courthouse drug scandal that included a fellow judge's cocaine death is headed to federal prison for two years.
 
U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade on Friday also fined former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook more than $75,000 on heroin and gun charges. Federal prosecutors had requested an 18-month sentence. Cook's attorney suggested a 6-month term was appropriate.
 
McDade last month rejected a deal between the two sides, calling an agreed-upon prison term of 18 months insufficient.
 
On Friday, the 43-year-old Cook entered an open plea, meaning the judge would decide his sentence.
 
McDade calls the two-year sentence appropriate given the negative affect on the public's confidence in the judiciary.
Published in Local News

   The former metro-east judge at the center of a courthouse drug scandal could learn his punishment today on federal gun and heroin charges.  

   Last month U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade rejected a plea deal with former St. Clair County judge Michael Cook. McDade had called the proposed 18 month prison term too lenient. The judge delayed proceedings until today to give both sides time to negotiate a stiffer prison sentence for him to consider.  

   At a 10:30 a.m. hearing, McDade could hand down that sentence  -- if the two sides came to terms and if McDade finds the sentence stiff enough.  

   Cook still has the right to withdraw his November guilty plea and request a trial.

Published in Local News
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 15:31

Judge throws out plea deal for former judge

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) - A federal judge says he can't accept a plea deal for a former Illinois judge on heroin and gun charges because the prison term is too light.
 
Michael Cook pleaded guilty in November as part of a deal with prosecutors that called for him to serve 18 months in prison. But on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade rejected the deal, saying Cook deserves more prison time.
 
An attorney for the former St. Clair County judge declined to go through with the sentencing. He has three weeks to work out another deal with prosecutors. Cook also can ask for a jury trial.
 
The case involves the death of Associate Judge Joe Christ, who was with Cook at a hunting cabin when he overdosed on cocaine last year.
Published in Local News
   EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) - A disgraced metro-east judge at the center of a courthouse drug scandal involving the cocaine death of a prosecutor-turned-judge is about to be sentenced.
   Former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday afternoon in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis. That's where he pleaded guilty in November to heroin and gun charges.
   Cook had negotiated an 18 month sentence as part of a plea deal. But it's possible the federal judge assigned to the case, Joe Billy McDade, may depart from that.
   Cook resigned from the bench last May, after his legal troubles surfaced after Joe Christ died of a cocaine overdose while with Cook at a hunting cabin. Christ was a former St. Clair County prosecutor and newly sworn-in judge.
   
 
Published in Local News

Former St. Clair County judge Michael Cook, whose colleague died of a cocaine overdose in March, pleaded guilty today in court. The Post-Dispatch reports that Cook was sentenced to 18 months in prison for misdemeanor heroin possession and a felony charge of being a drug user in possession of a firearm. On Wednesday, 46-year-old James Fogarty, a former county probation officer, admitted selling drugs to Cook and Judge Joseph Christ and using drugs with both men. Two men convicted separately of murder in Cook's court have won retrials after raising concerns about the judge's drug connections, and some other criminal defendants have been allowed to withdraw guilty pleas.

Published in Local News

   A former metro-east judge facing federal heroine and weapons charges is set to go to trial by the end of this year, but that could change.  

   A December 9 trial date was set for former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook at a pretrial hearing Monday. Cook has pleaded not guilty, but at the hearing, his attorney said he may change his plea.  

   Since being charged in May, Cook resigned his judgeship and was released on bond to attend drug rehab in Minnesota.  

   St. Clair County Judge Joe Christ died of a cocaine overdose in March at Cook's hunting cabin, though Cook is not charged in Christ's death. 

Published in Local News
Thursday, 12 September 2013 02:31

Peoria federal judge to preside over Cook trial

   EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) - A federal judge from Peoria will preside over the trial of a former St. Clair County judge accused of drugs and weapons violations.

   U.S. District Court Judge Joe Billy McDade was named to preside over the case of Michael Cook, who has pleaded not guilty to possessing heroin and having a gun while illegally using controlled substances.

   Chief Judge David Herndon of the Southern District of Illinois was initially assigned the case. However, he and other federal judges in the district recused themselves.

   Cook resigned his judgeship and agreed to attend a drug rehabilitation center in Minnesota and to the suspension of his law license. He was released without being required to post cash.

   Investigators say Cook was with Judge Joe Christ when Christ died from a cocaine overdose.

 

Published in Local News

   A federal judge from outside the Southern District of Illinois will preside over the drug trial of former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook.  That after U.S. District Court Judge William Stiehl recused himself on Wednesday.  

   Chief Judge David Herndon told the Belleville News Democrat that he's requested that the chief judge for the federal 7th Circuit in Illinois assign a new judge after determining that all of the judges in the Southern District would recuse themselves.  

   Cook has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor heroine charges and felony weapons charges.  His trial is scheduled to begin October 1st.

Published in Local News

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