|Former Illinois judge Michael Cook|
It also happens in western Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from Missouri. And we know, from an unfolding story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that the ugliness in the Midwest involves cocaine, heroin, firearms . . . and, well, it makes Alabama sound tame.
At least three federal lawsuits have been filed here in Alabama, alleging that judges and lawyers gather at hunting clubs to fix divorce cases in Jefferson County. All three cases were dismissed under questionable circumstances, with no discovery, suggesting the federal judiciary actively is engaged in a cover up. That makes sense when you consider that U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn (Northern District of Alabama) is one of the apparent beneficiaries of hunting-club corruption.
Ugly stuff ensues when folks with law degrees gather in the Alabama woods. But it might be even uglier on the Illinois/Missouri border. Consider this report out of Belleville, Illinois, from St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Robert Patrick:
A courthouse drug scandal expanded Friday with charges alleging that a St. Clair County probation worker used cocaine repeatedly with two judges and provided the dose that killed one of them.
James K. Fogarty, of the probation office’s investigative unit, told officials he bought cocaine and re-sold it to Associate Judge Joseph Christ and Circuit Judge Michael N. Cook the day before the two went to a hunting lodge where Christ died March 10.
Fogarty, 45, was charged in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis with distribution and possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He was held pending another hearing.
Earlier Friday, Cook, 43, appeared in the same courthouse to answer charges of being an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm, and a misdemeanor charge of possession of heroin.
One judge dies from a cocaine overdose, and another is arrested for illegally possessing heroin and a firearm? Gee, how bad would their behavior be if they had not taken a solemn oath to uphold the law?
And it gets worse. Judge Cook was arrested at the home of a known drug dealer:
The charges capped a frenetic two-day period in which Cook was arrested Wednesday at the home in Belleville of Sean D. McGilvery, a friend now accused of running a busy heroin shuttle from Chicago.
The FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and other agencies searched McGilvery’s house plus Cook’s chambers in the courthouse in Belleville, home in the same city, and family hunting lodge in Pike County, Ill., where Christ died.
McGilvery, 34, was charged late Thursday with conspiracy to distribute, and possession with intent to distribute, heroin. The charges claim he sold more than a kilogram.
An ongoing federal investigation extends well beyond Belleville, Illinois. Cook resigned from his judicial post yesterday. This is from an article Tuesday by Post-Dispatch reporter Paul Hampel:
The investigation into a drug scandal involving a St. Clair County judge, another who died of a cocaine overdose and a county probation worker charged with providing them with drugs, is far-reaching, a federal prosecutor said Tuesday.
“This is a wide-open investigation and is not limited in scope to the St. Clair County courthouse,” U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton said after a hearing for accused probation officer James K. Fogarty at U.S. District Court in East St. Louis.
Wigginton did not elaborate, other than to say the investigation was “fast-moving and dynamic.”
“We have a number of leads we are tracking down,” Wigginton said.
The feds might want to follow some leads into the Alabama hunting-club scene. God only knows what they would find there.