Judge wants report on impact of Cook's conduct; McDade cites loss of confidence in judiciary
U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade has indicated he could reject an 18-month sentence that federal prosecutors recommended for former St. Clair County Judge Michael Cook who pleaded guilty in November to heroin possession and weapons charges. McDade wrote in a Jan. 8 order that he disagreed with a proposed finding in a presentence investigation report that stated there were “no factors that would warrant a departure from sentencing guidelines.” He ordered Probation Officer Eric Hansen to prepare a supplemental presentence report within 28 days with factual information supporting proposed findings in Cook's existing presentence report, which is under seal: “The Court may wish to consider whether an upward variance may be appropriate in this case…Specifically, the defendant was a Circuit Court Judge and presided over cases involving the very conduct for which he is now convicted. The potential impact of his conduct, in how it may have affected trials he presided over and sentences he imposed while addicted to illegal substances, are immeasurable yet cannot be ignored. In addition, based on his position in the community, his actions erode public confidence in the judicial system.” Cook’s sentencing has been rescheduled from Jan. 17 to Feb. 26. McDade wrote that he could identify three reasons for departure from sentencing range: “(1) Given his status as a judge, the extensive duration of defendant’s criminal conduct without any effort to obtain treatment for his drug addiction; (2) The disruption of governmental functions; and (3) Loss of public confidence in the judicial system caused by defendant’s criminal conduct…” He stated that the reasons he cited would also warrant a variance from the sentencing guideline range based on the nature and circumstance of the offenses, the need for a sentence to reflect the seriousness of the offense and the need to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct. Cook’s plea agreement reached Nov. 8 also calls for three years of supervised release and a fine within guidelines. It also requires Cook to forfeit all of his weapons and ammunition, which, according to a three-page list, includes 13 shotguns, 10 rifles and 10 other firearms, as well as plenty of rounds, shells and cartridges. William Lucco of Edwardsville represents Cook, along with Thomas Keefe Jr. and Thomas Keefe III of Belleville. U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Porter and Suzanne Garrison, chief of the office’s criminal division, represent the government.