Fifth District dismisses appeal of man convicted in Cook's court of aggravated battery, sexual abuse of daughter

By Ann Maher | Dec 17, 2014

Former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook was upheld by the Fifth District Appellate Court in an appeal brought by a man convicted on four felony offenses against his adult daughter, including aggravated battery, criminal sexual abuse, domestic battery and violation of an order of protection.

In a Dec. 12 ruling, the appellate court dismissed the appeal of Michael Putnam citing "egregious" deficiencies in the brief that he filed pro se.

"Additionally, this court concludes that the arguments the defendant has attempted to make have no merit," states the Rule 23 order authored by Justice Thomas Welch. Justices Judy Cates and Gene Schwarm concurred.

At a bench trial in 2011, Putnam, who voluntarily waived his rights to an attorney and a jury, represented himself. Cook found him guilty on all four counts.

Putnam petitioned with a "motion to reconsider verdict." Arguments were heard on motions to reconsider, reopen and demand for mistrial. Cook denied the motions on Dec. 2, 2011.

On each of the four counts, Putnam was sentenced to five years in prison with the sentences to run concurrently.

On appeal, Putnam argued: (1) the state "misdirected" the trial court, and committed "prosecucutional [sic] misconduct" when it "knowingly used at trial a document which was at no time prior to the trial, contained there within the record"; (2) the trial court denied him "the right to further question (daughter) Ms. Rainbolt"; (3) the trial court committed plain error by "refus[ing] the defense the right to question (a state witness) under direct for the purpose of impeachment"; and (4) the trial court denied the defendant "the right to call witnesses in mitigation" at sentencing.

Welch wrote, "[T]he defendant's brief is deficient in several respects. Perhaps the three most glaring deficiencies are the absence of any applicable standard of review, the absence of a statement of facts, and the near total lack of citation to applicable legal authority.

"These deficiencies justify the harsh consequences of striking the defendant's brief and dismissing this appeal."

Cook left the bench in May 2013 after his arrest on heroin possession and weapons charges.

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