Pubdate: Wed, 19 Mar 2014
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Copyright: 2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Author: Robert Patrick
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


EAST ST. LOUIS - Federal prosecutors and lawyers for disgraced St.
Clair County judge Mike Cook filed a response Wednesday to a federal
judge who had rejected an 18-month prison term, but it was not clear
whether a new deal had been reached.

The filing is sealed and says only that is is a "response" to U.S.
District Judge Joe Billy McDade, who rejected a prior plea deal Feb.
26 as "not sufficient."

One of Cook's lawyers declined to comment Wednesday morning.
Prosecutors couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

McDade said in the Feb. 26 hearing that the facts of the case
supported a longer sentence, but said that he wouldn't "throw the book
at" Cook just because he was a judge.

McDade gave both sides a deadline of today to reach a new deal, and
scheduled March 28 as the day Cook would either be sentenced or McDade
would set a date for trial. Federal judges are not supposed to inject
themselves into plea negotiations, so the deadlines suggest that it
was Cook's last chance at a negotiated sentence.

Cook pleaded guilty Nov. 8 to a misdemeanor charge of heroin
possession and a felony charge of being a drug user in possession of a
firearm in a rare plea deal that took the sentencing discretion away
from McDade. Prosecutors and Cook's lawyers agreed upon an 18-month
prison term and McDade's only option was to accept or reject the deal.

McDade warned both sides in January that he disagreed with a
pre-sentence report that said there were no reasons to go above
federal sentencing guidelines, which called for six months or less
behind bars.

He wrote that Cook's status as a judge, his longtime drug use and the
disruption of governmental functions due to the scandal were reasons
to go higher. He also ordered a supplemental report on how Cook's
actions may have affected cases in front of him, and whether it had
affected public confidence in the judicial system.

Lawyers often choose a negotiated prison term, known as an 11(c)(1)(C)
for the applicable federal rule of criminal procedure, to remove the
uncertainty associated with an unfamiliar judge.

McDade was brought in from the Central District of Illinois after all
the federal judges in the Southern District recused themselves from
the case.

Cook was arrested May 22, along with his heroin dealer, Sean
McGilvery. St. Clair County probation employee James K. Fogarty was
charged two days later with intent to distribute cocaine and being a
drug user in possession of a firearm.

He pleaded guilty Feb. 27 and admitted selling drugs to both Cook and
Christ, in exchange for a five-year term in his own 11(c)(1)(C) plea.

McGilvery is serving a 10-year prison term on charges of conspiracy to
distribute, and possession with intent to distribute, more than a
kilogram of heroin after also pleading guilty.

The arrests exposed Cook's heroin addiction and drug sales by
McGilvery and Fogarty. They also exposed the cocaine overdose death of
Associate Judge Joseph Christ, who died March 10 in the Cook family
hunting lodge in Pike County, Ill., about 65 miles northwest of St.

Cook, of Belleville, resigned and entered an intensive in-patient
treatment facility after his arrest.

Cook is the son of Bruce Cook, also of Belleville, a well-known
personal injury lawyer and major behind-the-scenes player in local and
national Democratic Party politics.

Cook was an assistant public defender and former member of his
father's practice. He was selected as an associate judge in 2007,
appointed to a vacancy to be a circuit judge in 2010 and elected to a
six-year term, as a Democrat, later that year.
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