EAST ST. LOUIS, IL (KTVI) - In an unusual move, a federal judge refused to accept a plea agreement Wednesday between the U.S. Attorney for Southern Illinois and a former St. Clair County circuit judge who plead guilty to using illegal drugs while on the bench. The agreement called for an 18 month prison sentence for former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook.
He was arrested last spring on a federal heroin misdemeanor charge and a weapons felony charge. Authorities caught him with drugs outside the Belleville home of drug dealer Sean McGilvery. McGilvery has been sentenced to ten years in prison for distributing heroin.
As a judge, Cook had handled drug cases. His arrest shocked the Metroeast legal community and prompted a review of all the cases he had presided over.
St. Clair County State`s Attorney Brendan Kelly brought in two former state`s attorneys, one a Democrat and one a Republican to review the cases. New trials have been ordered in two cases handled by Cook, but no other questionable rulings surfaced. Kelly said the investigation of Cook`s work is now concluded.
U.S. Federal Judge Joe Billy McDade from Peoria told a packed courtroom he would not 'throw the book' at Cook, but the 18 month sentence did not seen sufficient for someone in Cook`s position.
Judge McDade also said he wanted a sentence that was fair to Cook and fair to the public so citizens would continue to respect the judiciary. In January Judge McDade signaled he might not follow sentencing guidelines and asked for additional information about Cook as part of a pre-sentencing investigation.
Thursday a third person caught in the drug - courthouse scandal, former probation and parole officer James Fogarty will be sentenced. His plea agreement calls for a five year sentence. He will appear before a different federal judge. Some court observers believe Cook`s final sentence will be closer to Fogarty`s.
A former St. Clair County judge at the center of a drug scandal is expected to be sentenced Wednesday in federal court.
The sentencing hearing for Mike Cook is set to take place at 1:15pm Wednesday inside the East St. Louis federal courthouse before Judge Joe Billy McDade.
Cook was originally set to be sentenced last month, butthat was postponed while McDade considered whether Cook should receive a stiffer sentence than what his plea deal called for.
In November, Cook pleaded guilty to heroin and gun charges. Cook, 43, agreed at that time to serve 18 months in prison. But judge McDade asked for a more thorough pre-sentencing report saying the sentence may go beyond the normal guidelines because Cook was a judge, his actions may have impacted cases he presided over, and what he did eroded public confidence in the judicial system.
In March, Cook's friend and fellow judge Joe Christ died of a cocaine overdose while with Cook at his hunting cabin in Pike County.
Cook was then arrested in May outside the Belleville home of Sean McGilvery. McGilvery has already pleaded guilty to heroin charges and said Cook picked up heroin from him almost every day.
Thursday, another figure in this whole scandal faces sentencing. Former St. Clair County Probation Officer James Fogarty has admitted to selling cocaine to both Cook and Christ.
Fogarty is expected to receive five years in prison.