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'Bad' Judge Embroiled in Drug Scandal After Colleague's Death

An Illinois judicial scandal involving drugs, death and some truly unfortunate courtroom attire has been gaining steam this week.

An arraignment was held Tuesday for St. Clair County probation worker James Fogarty, who is accused of selling cocaine to two county judges, Joseph Christ and Michael Cook. Christ died in March while on a hunting trip with Cook at a lodge owned by Cook's family. A coroner on Friday confirmed that Christ's death was due to cocaine intoxication. Christ, a longtime prosecutor, was sworn in as a judge only 10 days before his death. He was 49 years old and a father of six.

Cook, a 43-year-old St. Clair County circuit judge, has not been charged in connection with Christ's death, but was arrested last week on charges of heroin possession and using a controlled substance while in possession of a firearm, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. Cook resigned from the bench on Wednesday, the Belleville News-Democrat reports. A letter submitted by his attorney stated that Cook "was away in treatment."

Cook pleaded not guilty at a hearing Friday, appearing in court wearing cut-off jean shorts and a T-shirt bearing the message "Bad is my middle name." That was apparently the ensemble Cook had been sporting when he was arrested several evenings earlier at the home of a friend and former client, Sean McGilvery, who was also charged with heroin possession and intent to distribute.

Fogarty, the probation worker who allegedly sold drugs to the two judges, pleaded not guilty to federal drug charges Tuesday. The Associated Press reports that FBI Special Agent Joseph Murphy filed an affidavit stating that Fogarty admitted that he repeatedly sold cocaine to Cook and Christ, and that he sometimes used the drug with them. Murphy's affidavit states that, "Fogarty snorted cocaine with the two judges at times on golf trips and at least once at the Cook family's lodge where Christ later died," the AP writes.

According to the affidavit, the AP reports, "The day before Cook and Christ went off on the hunting trip from which Christ would not return alive, Fogarty snorted cocaine with the judges before giving the rest of the 'eight ball' -- an eighth of an ounce, or 3.5 grams -- of the drug to them for $140 apiece."

Cook has been released on bond and a trial date was set for July. He faces up to 10 years in prison on the possession and firearms charges. Cook's cases have been reassigned, and the state's attorney has filed ethics complaints against him. St. Clair County Chief Judge John Baricevic said both Cook's and Christ's criminal cases are being reviewed for any link to their illegal drug activities. "There is no indication there was a corruption of their bench duties, but the investigation is ongoing," Baricevic told the News-Democrat.

Additional revelations are likely to come. The News-Democrat writes that after Fogarty's hearing Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Steve Wigginton told reporters that the matter is "an ongoing investigation with lots of moving parts." The inquiry, Wigginton said, is "wide open and not limited to the St. Clair County Courthouse."

Posted by Laurel Newby on May 29, 2013 at 04:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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