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Drug scandal in Belleville sends probation officer to prison

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EAST ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- A federal judge ordered a St. Clair County Probation and Parole officer to prison for five years Thursday.  The officer, James Fogarty was caught up in the drug scandal that rocked the courthouse in Belleville last year.  He admitted he was a cocaine addict who sold the drug to two judges.

One of the county judges, Joe Christ died of cocaine intoxication two days after buying a small amount of cocaine from Fogarty.   Federal Judge Michael Reagan warned Fogarty he could face a longer prison term if his sale of the drug could be linked to Christ`s death.  But today, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Porter indicated authorities called in experts to review the facts.  They were not able to say the cocaine supplied by Fogarty was solely responsible for his friend`s death.

The second judge, Mike Cook has plead guilty to two drug related federal charges.  Wednesday Federal Judge Joe Billy McDade turned down an 18 month prison sentence recommended for Cook under a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney.  McDade said the sentence was 'not appropriate.'

However, Judge Reagan accepted Fogarty`s plea bargain agreeing to a five year prison sentence in return for guilty pleas on two counts: possession with intent to distribute Cocaine and possession of a firearm by an illegal drug user.  He could shorten his five year sentence by earning his way into a residential drug abuse treatment program inside the prison system and completing it successfully as well as by good behavior.

Judge Reagan indicated he had received letters praising Fogarty`s character and family support.  Fogarty`s lawyer, Clyde Kuehn called his client`s missteps ' a puzzling moment in time.'  He added Fogarty was eager to serve his time and return to society to see that he is not remembered for the mistakes he made.

Fogarty met briefly with his wife and two other family members in the federal  courtroom in East St. Louis before he was taken away in handcuffs.  He turned himself in in January and has been locked up at the Washington County jail.

He and his attorney asked that he not be placed at a federal facility in Illinois because he could encounter criminals he had supervised as a probation officer.

After the sentencing hearing concluded, Kuehn said his client had been thoroughly interviewed by federal authorities.  During a court proceeding last summer, Porter indicated Fogarty had implicated other prominent people in Belleville.  To date no one other than former Judge Cook and two drug dealers have been charged.  St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly indicated the investigation is continuing.

Kuehn said his client was not the 'go to guy' for drugs for Christ and Cook. He said 'Christ repeatedly asked Fogarty to get him some cocaine ' in March of 2013.  That`s when Fogarty bought an 'eight ball' or an eighth of an ounce of cocaine for Christ and Cook.  Two days later Christ died of cocaine intoxication while he was with Cook at the Cook family hunting lodge in Pike County.  Kuehn said Fogarty told him he was 'mystified' that Christ would use that much cocaine.

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Federal judge denies plea deal for former judge Michael Cook

Probation officer pleads guilty to supplying judges with cocaine