The fund raising power of Belleville attorney Bruce N. Cook has weakened since the May 23, 2013 arrest of his son, who at the time was a sitting St. Clair County circuit judge.
In the four years and four months prior to the day Michael Cook was arrested outside the Belleville home of his heroin dealer, Bruce N. Cook, son Bruce R. Cook, as well as partners Gregory Shevlin and Bernard Ysursa contributed $311,634 to state and national campaign committees. That equals about $6,000 a month.
In the year since Cook’s arrest on heroin possession and weapons charges, the four lawyers have given $27,300 to campaigns. That equals about $2,250 a month, a drop of 62 percent.
But, in the 19 days after March 10, 2013 - the day St. Clair County associate judge Joe Christ died in Bruce N. Cook’s Pike County hunting lodge - the four lawyers contributed $15,800 to the campaigns of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.
Shevlin gave Quinn $7,000 on March 18, the day Durbin paid tribute to Christ on the Senate floor.
Durbin attributed Christ’s death, eight days earlier, to natural causes.
On March 22, Ysursa gave Durbin $1,000.
On March 28, Bruce N. Cook and Bruce R. Cook each gave Durbin $2,600.
On March 29, Shevlin gave Durbin $2,600. On the same date, Belleville lawyer Michael Weilmuenster gave Durbin $2,600.
In 2010, Durbin had nominated Weilmuenster’s former partner, Stephen Wigginton, as U.S. attorney for Southern Illinois.
Durbin’s theory of natural causes broke down when Pike County sheriff and coroner Paul Petty determined that cocaine killed Christ. Petty, in the meantime, faces legal problems in his home county. He was charged on May 16 by Pike County State’s Attorney Carrie Boyd with official misconduct for allegedly failing to perform duties in his role as coroner. He is alleged to have failed to have blood samples drawn for a toxicology report before the embalming of a body in a 2012 death investigation.
After Christ’s funeral on March 15, 2013, Michael Cook, who had found Christ’s body, admitted to Petty that he and Christ used illegal drugs.
Drug agents learned that probation officer James Fogarty supplied cocaine to Christ.
They learned that Michael Cook bought heroin from Sean McGilvery of Belleville.
Drug agents arrested Cook, McGilvery and Fogarty on May 23.
Wigginton charged McGilvery and Fogarty with distributing drugs, and charged Cook with possessing heroin and using it while possessing firearms.
Although Wigginton has regularly told reporters that the investigation remains open, he has not charged anyone else.
McGilvery pleaded guilty and received a 10 year sentence as Wigginton recommended.
Fogarty admitted selling cocaine to Christ, but argued that he didn’t sell the fatal dose.
Wigginton couldn’t add to Fogarty’s sentence by connecting his crime to Christ’s death, and he settled with Fogarty on five years.
No one has identified the source of the cocaine that killed Christ.
Cook agreed to plead guilty and serve 18 months, but District Judge Joe McDade of Peoria rejected the agreement and sentenced him to two years. He ordered Cook to report to marshals on May 28.
In better times, lawyers in Cook’s firm gave tens of thousands at a time:
-Bruce N. Cook gave Quinn $25,500 in 2009, and $50,000 in 2010.
-Bruce Cook, with no initial, gave $24,000 to the St. Clair County Central Democratic Committee in 2010.
-Bruce N. Cook gave $5,000 to House Speaker Michael Madigan and $5,000 to the county central committee in 2012, and Shevlin gave $5,000 to President Obama.
Last year, eight days before the arrest, Shevlin gave $5,200 to former Madison County chief judge and current Congressional candidate Ann Callis.
The year’s biggest check came from Shevlin, for his annual $7,500 contribution to the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association’s political action committee. He served as president of the group from 2012-2013.
Since the arrest, no contribution has approached $10,000. The best was saved for Quinn, who in the past year received $5,300 from Bruce N. Cook, $2,500 from Shevlin, $2,000 from Bruce R. Cook, and $1,000 from Ysursa.