A year before St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook was arrested on a heroin possession charge he allowed a prosecutor to make crude references to drug addiction during the sentencing of a man admitting he sexually assaulted minor girls.
Cook did not stop proceedings on May 14, 2012, when assistant state’s attorney Will Clay identified the location of an assault as the East St. Louis residence of “Brandy Crackhead.”
Clay is husband of St. Clair County Circuit Clerk Kahala Dixon Clay.
In his next sentence after identifying the location of the crime, Clay called the residence owner “Ms. Crackhead,” and Cook again let it pass.
Cook accepted Clay’s plea agreement with defendant Lamondra Beckley, who at age 33 assaulted two minor girls.
At the hearing, Cook also dismissed 16 of 17 traffic tickets Beckley faced. He allowed Beckley to plead guilty to a seat belt violation.
Cook sentenced Beckley to three years, on a charge of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
The original charge, predatory criminal sexual abuse, carried a sentence of six to 30 years.
A transcript of the proceedings showed a lack of seriousness regarding Beckley’s crime and the number of traffic tickets he faced.
Clay said, “Your honor, per plea the state is going to dismiss the criminal indictment.”
“The defendant will plead guilty to the criminal information and would be placed on three years or would be given three years in the Department of Corrections and given a two year mandatory supervised release period.”
Clay said Beckley would be given credit for time he served in county jail.
Defense counsel Richard Roustio said, “We also have some associated traffic that I think by agreement we will be dismissing.”
Cook asked Beckley if he understood the negotiations, and Beckley said yes.
Cook asked if anybody promised him anything, and he said no. Cook asked if anybody threatened him, and he said no.
Cook said he saw no reason why he wouldn’t go along with the terms of the plea.
“With regard to the count that you’re pleading to, that is charged as a class two felony,” Cook said. “Is he extended term eligible, Mr. Clay?”
Clay said no.
Cook thanked him and said, “Which is punishable by three to seven years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. It is probationable by up to – Is it four years, Mr. Clay?”
Clay said yes.
Cook said, “Up to four years of probation and when you are sentenced to the Department of Corrections you will also be sentenced to two years of mandatory supervised release, which used to be called parole, and has a maximum fine of $25,000.”
He asked if Beckley understood, and Beckley said yes.
He told Beckley the charge that would be dismissed was punishable by six to 30 years and was not probationable. He asked if Beckley understood, and Beckley said yes.
Cook asked, “State, is there a factual basis?”
Clay said, “If this matter were to go to trial, the state would prove beyond a reasonable doubt that on December 11, 2010, the East St. Louis police department responded to the residence of Brandy Crackhead at Douglas Avenue.”
“While the officers were at Ms. Crackhead’s residence,” Clay said , a mother with another name reported that the defendant touched her daughter in a sexual manner.
Clay said that police interviewed a second girl who said the same things had happened to her.
He provided details that Roustio did not dispute.
Cook said, “Mr. Beckley, how do you plead to case number 10CF1136, the charge of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Is it five years? A child five years older or younger? I can’t quite read -”
Clay said, “The defendant was five years older than the minor.”
Cook said, “Okay, aggravated criminal sexual abuse to a defendant. Strike that. To a victim. The defendant was five years older than the minors, correct?”
Clay said, “Correct.”
Cook said, “All right. Thank you. How do you plead to that charge, sir?”
Beckley said, “Guilty.”
Cook said, “The court accepts,” but he apparently detected distress signals.
“Did I read that charge correctly?” Cook said. “Do you have something -”
Roustio said, “You got it mixed up there at the end.”
Cook said, “Well, the way it’s written here is kind of -”
Clay said, “Basically aggravated criminal sexual abuse, defendant five years older than the victim.”
Roustio said, “And the victim was a minor.”
Cook asked Beckley how he would plea.
Beckley said, “yeah.”
Roustio said, “You got to say guilty or not guilty.”
“Oh, guilty, yes,” Beckley said.
Cook accepted the plea.
Cook recited Beckley’s appellate rights and asked if he understood. Beckley said yes.
Cook said, “Okay, that’s the order of the court. Thank you.”
Cook was arrested May 23, 2013 on heroin possession and weapons charges. He stepped down from the bench and sought treatment for drug addiction. He pleaded guilty and is currently serving a two year sentence in federal prison.