EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (KTVI) - A former St. Clair County judge is heading to prison for two years. Michael Cook admitted to using and possessing heroin while owning firearms. He was sentenced Friday at Federal Court in East St. Louis by Judge Joe Billy McDade of Peoria.
Judge McDade said Cook`s long term admitted drug use 'undermined the rule of law' and damaged the public court system. He ordered the maximum supervised release time, three years, following Cook`s time behind bars. Cook will also have to pay a ten thousand dollar fine and $65,583 to cover his incarceration and supervision costs.
U.S. Attorney for Southern Illinois Stephen Wigginton praised the sentence saying, "We did not want his imprisonment borne by the taxpayers and in fact the judge agreed with our request."
Cook`s attorney William Lucco asked the judge to assess only six months in prison pointing to the former judge`s success in a drug treatment program and his continuing efforts to remain drug free. Federal prosecutors asked for an 18 month sentence, three times the six month maximum suggested for first time offenders in federal sentencing guidelines.
The federal judge had refused a plea agreement in February that called for an 18 month sentence saying it was not long enough for someone in Cook`s position.
Cook has fourteen days to appeal the two year sentence. Wigginton said he believes it is a fair, just sentence that can be defended in an appeal. But he pointed out appellate judges look at sentences above the guidelines with extra scrutiny and may reverse them.
Cook comes from a prominent Metro East family of attorneys, but Judge McDade assured the court there were no 'shenanigans' involving the case and that the laws 'have been applied equally.'
Wigginton noted drug dealers who sold illegal narcotics to Cook received longer prison terms because of the quantities of drugs they sold and how the law looks at that crime. "He (Cook) was a drug user; he was not a drug dealer," the U.S. Attorney said.
Cook was part of the drug scandal that rocked the circuit court in Belleville. Authorities arrested him outside drug dealer Sean McGilvery`s home last spring. Cook had been with St. Clair County Judge Joe Christ at the Cook family hunting lodge in Pike County when Christ died of a drug overdose.
Wigginton said Friday that Cook was already under investigation at the time of Christ`s death. Federal and state authorities have been unable to link anyone to the drugs that killed Christ. They do not expect to file any charges of drug induced homicide.
However, prosecutors indicate they are still wrapping up their investigation and are not ready to say it has been concluded.
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