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.
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.
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.
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.
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.