EAST ST. LOUIS – Former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook pleaded guilty Friday to charges he possessed heroin and did so while possessing firearms.
His plea agreement with federal prosecutors recommends an 18-month sentence, three years of supervised release and a fine within guidelines, although it does not recommend an amount.
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.
U.S. District Judge Billy Joe McDade of Peoria accepted Cook’s plea, but not the agreement.
He told Cook he would read a report from probation officers before imposing a sentence and that Cook will have no right of privacy with the officers.
At Friday's hearing, which more than 40 people attended, Cook stood before McDade in a dark suit with a white shirt and burgundy tie.
In the most dramatic moment at Friday’s hearing, McDade recited to Cook the rights he would waive by pleading guilty and asked, “Do you know what a jury trial is?”
Cook said, “Yes, your honor.”
McDade explained it to the former judge anyway, telling Cook 12 jurors would have to find him guilty and the government would carry the burden of proof. McDade said Cook would have a constitutional right to a presumption of innocence, and the right to examine and confront witnesses.
Saying he wanted to satisfy himself that there was a basis for the plea, McDade asked Cook “What is it you did?”
Cook said, “At the time I was a user, I possessed firearms.”
McDade asked if he was an unlawful user, and Cook said yes.
McDade asked about the other part, and Cook responded, “I deliberately and knowingly possessed heroin.”
Saying that a stipulation with the plea agreement didn’t state the amount of heroin he possessed, McDade asked Cook if he wanted to tell the court.
Cook said, “Approximately one gram or less, your honor.”
McDade asked Assistant U. S. Attorney James Porter if he wanted to speak, and Porter summarized the case by reading from the stipulation.
It states that on May 23, “Defendant picked up an amount of heroin at the residence of his customary heroin dealer, Sean McGilvery, in Belleville, Illinois.”
“At that time, a federal search warrant was being executed," the stipulation states, adding that “Officers executing that warrant saw Defendant drop something to the ground as they approached.”
It goes on to say, “Keeping Defendant under constant surveillance, officers recovered what was dropped, which was field tested and laboratory tested and determined to be a user amount of heroin.”
McDade asked Cook if he had questions or anything to say, and Cook said he did not.
“How do you plead?” McDade aske, to which Cook responded, “Guilty, your honor.”
McDade said he found Cook capable and competent to plead.
He asked if the government objected to continuing Cook’s release on $10,000 bond, and Porter said, “We do not, your honor.”
William Lucco of Edwardsville represents Cook, along with Thomas Keefe Jr. and Thomas Keefe III of Belleville.
U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton and Suzanne Garrison, chief of the office’s criminal division, represents the government, along with Porter.