The Illinois judge at the center of an increasingly complicated drug scandal resigned from office yesterday.
Circuit Court Judge Michael Cook is charged with drug and illegal weapons possession, and is the subject of a federal drug investigation that has already ensnared other employees of the St. Clair County judicial system.
Cook pleaded not guilty to both of charges this week, then was apparently whisked off to rehab. Cook's attorney Tom Q. Keefe confirms to Daily RFT that Cook is currently undergoing drug treatment.
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According to the Belleville-News Democrat, Cook authorized his attorney to tender his resignation "effective immediately" to Chief Judge John Baricevic. That may have been because Cook is already far away in Center City, Minnesota, at the Hazelden Addiction Treatment Center. Cook left custody last week on a $10,000 bond. His next hearing is scheduled for July 15.
Baricevic also told the paper that Cook's office is already empty and being cleaned. Cook's caseload will be handled by other judges.
Cook, who was a public defender before becoming an associate judge in 2007 and a circuit judge in 2010, first came under federal scrutiny after the death of fellow judge Joseph Christ at Cook's hunting cabin. Christ's cause of death was cocaine overdose.
A St. Clair County probation officer named James Fogarty told authorities he sold the two judges the drugs before they left for the cabin. Fogarty pleaded not guilty this week to charges of possession and intent to distribute cocaine, though he also reportedly told authorities that he and Cook did coke together on numerous occasions.
Authorities arrested Cook as he left the house of a friend named Sean McGilvery, who is also charged with running a heroin ring. Cook is charged with possession of heroin and possession of a firearm while under the influence of heroin. McGilvery is a former client of Cook's and Cook dismissed a drug case against McGilvery in 2011.
Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney Steve Wigginton told reporters the investigation into who else might be involved is "wide open," and continues within St. Clair County Courthouse and beyond. Stay tuned.