(This story has been updated)
St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook is under federal investigation and is no longer presiding over a docket of approximately 200 criminal felony cases.
Following warrants executed Wednesday evening at his Belleville home, court chambers and a hunting cabin in Pike County, Cook is being held at the Washington County Jail, according to a source familiar with the jail.
Washington County deputy officer Ron Williams said the jail is not authorized to give information about federal inmates. He said his office was advised to refer any such questions to the U.S. Marshals Service.
The hunting cabin, located in Pleasant Hill, is the site of death of Joseph Christ, a former St. Clair County associate judge who died in March just 13 days after being sworn in.
Several sources have indicated that more arrests related to the Cook investigation would be coming on Friday.
On Thursday morning, State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly filed close to 500 motions for the substitution of judge in pending criminal cases before Cook and stated in those motions that he has assisted in and advanced a federal investigation of Cook.
Chief Judge John Baricevic said those motions are now moot because he had reassigned all of the cases Cook presided over pursuant to the federal investigation.
Paul Petty, the coroner and sheriff of Pike County, could not be reached for comment.
He was quoted by other media, saying he was referring any questions regarding Christ's death to the U.S. Attorney's office.
Messages have been left for a media contact at the prosecutor’s office and have not been returned either.
Kelly stated in the motions that he filed complaints Thursday with the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board and the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC).
A Supreme Court rule prevents the disciplinary commission from confirming or denying whether it is investigating an attorney until a formal complaint has been filed.
The head of security for the St. Clair County Courthouse, Scott Battoe, said that federal authorities entered Cook’s chambers late Wednesday night.
Christ, 49, died in March, just weeks after he had been appointed an associate judge in St. Clair County. He had been assigned to hear domestic violence cases. Prior to joining the judiciary, Christ served as a prosecutor for nearly 18 years and worked on cases involving violent crime and homicides.
Baricevic told the Record in March that Christ died of natural, but unknown causes. U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin in a March 18 Congressional tribute to Christ also noted that the judge died “from natural–though certainly unexpected–causes.”
Cook became an associate judge in 2007 and was appointed a circuit judge in 2010, filling the vacancy created by Annette Eckhert’s retirement.
Before becoming a judge, Cook practiced law with his father, Bruce Cook, at the Belleville law firm of Cook, Ysursa, Bartholomew, Brauer & Shevlin. He also previously served as an assistant public defender.
Baricevic said on Thursday that it would be inappropriate for him to comment on when he became aware of the investigation of Cook.
“It could interfere,” he said. “I have had prior communication.”
Baricevic said that 99 percent of Cook’s caseload is felony. When asked if any of the cases resolved in Cook’s court could be in jeopardy or prejudiced, he said, “Until we know the outcome, we don’t know the answer to that.”
“My first concern is to ensure in the minds of citizens that their system is honest and responsive.”
He said there would be a complete investigation and that “no stones” would be “unturned.”
A handwritten sign posted to Cook’s chambers indicated that his cases would be heard by Circuit Judge Robert Haida.
Bethany Krajelis contributed to this report.