Sheriff describes the secrecy surrounding judge’s cocaine death

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PIKE COUNTY, IL (KTVI) – A small town Sheriff talks about the secrecy that may have helped crack the St. Clair County Judge drug scandal.  One Judge died from a cocaine overdose, and another Judge admitted he was addicted to heroin while sitting on the bench.

I talked to Sheriff Paul Petty in his Pittsfield office.  It's about a two hour drive from the St. Louis area, in the County where former St. Clair County Judge, Michael Cook owns a hunting cabin.  And it`s where the cocaine death of the late Judge Joe Christ, gave a hint about the larger scandal.

Sheriff Petty said, "Sometimes in investigations you just have to be quiet."

Sheriff Petty said he was suspicious when he first heard the call to 911 by Michael Cook.  You can hear Cook say, "A friend of mine looks like he hit his head in the bathroom.  I can`t get him to get up."

Petty explained, "The time of day struck me as odd. 6:18 p.m.  For an individual to be able to sleep all day long... in times of my life when I`ve been extremely tired, I don`t know that I could ever sleep all day long.  What is that consistent with? It`s consistent with passing out."

Then there was Judge Joe Christ`s autopsy.  Petty was in the room when he said a vial of cocaine fell on the examining table.  Petty said the vial was, "not in a pocket... not hanging by a string around the neck or anything necklace style.  It wasn`t hidden by any stretch of the imagination.  It was in the process of which you are beginning the preparation of the work to be done in the next hour to hour an a half that it became, that it kind of fell out."

He said it appeared to fall from the folds of Christ's clothing. Sheriff Petty said everybody agreed to keep quiet.  It was still weeks before the FBI arrested Judge Michael Cook.  Petty set up a meeting with him.   The Sheriff said, "It was my intent to get his reaction and see how truthful and honest he would be."  Petty added, "There were some factors in the conversation that led me not to disclose it at that time."

Reporter Chris Hayes followed up, "Not to disclose the vial of cocaine?"
Petty answered, "Correct.  Or not to disclose any suspicion of mine as to the potential cause of death on the deceased."

He would not talk details, and he explained how he even guarded specifics when he first met an FBI agent.

Petty said, "Both of us were playing the same game and we both knew it."  He continued, "That chess game went on for a little while."

Once they broke the ice, the puzzle pieces came together and within weeks, FBI agents arrested Judge Cook outside the home of reported drug dealer Sean McGilvery. Agents also arrested Probation Officer James Fogarty, saying Fogarty admitted supplying drugs to Judge Cook and the late Judge Christ.  Everyone`s pleaded not guilty.  Cook and Fogarty quit their jobs in the Justice System.

Sheriff Petty and I talked about how easy it would`ve been for him to justify telling Cook what he learned.  Cook was a Judge, after all. Petty said the disclosure could've changed the entire outcome. He said a 'leak' could've caused Cook to suddenly change his behavior.  Then we might never have seen the domino drug arrests of a Judge and Probation Officer.

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