(This story has been updated)
St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook resigned on Wednesday, less than a week after he was charged with federal drug-related offenses.
Belleville attorney Thomas Keefe III said he submitted Cook’s resignation letter Wednesday morning to Chief Judge John Baricevic and confirmed that Cook is away in treatment.
Keefe said he and his father, Thomas Keefe Jr., will represent Cook, along with Edwardsville attorney J. William Lucco and Belleville attorney Michael J. Nester.
Neither the Illinois Supreme Court nor the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts had received a resignation letter from Cook as of late Wednesday afternoon, said court spokesman Joe Tybor.
Baricevic said Thursday that he has been in contact with Justice Lloyd Karmeier regarding Cook's resignation and that the high court has started the process of filling the vacancy, although no timetable has been set to do so.
Cook's resignation means that if he were to face any discipline stemming from his charges, it would likely be from the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC), not the Judicial Inquiry Board (JIB).
The JIB is only "authorized to receive, initiate, and investigate complaints concerning active Illinois state court judges," according to its website.
Cook was charged late last week with possession of heroin and being an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of firearms. He has entered a not guilty plea to both charges.
He had been the target of a federal investigation, which led to the execution of warrants last week at his Belleville home, court chambers and the hunting cabin in Pike County where his colleague, Associate Judge Joseph Christ, died in March.
Although court officials originally said Christ had died of natural causes, the Pike County coroner recently confirmed that he died of cocaine intoxication.
At a hearing before Magistrate Judge Clifford Proud on Friday, Cook consented to prosecution by information rather than indictment. He waived formal arraignment on the information and entered a plea of not guilty to both charges.
Cook was released on an unsecured recognizance bond, which came along with some conditions, including that he surrender his passport, submit to drug testing and participate in substance abuse therapy if deemed advisable.
The case against Cook was first revealed last week, when State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly filed nearly 500 motions for the substitution of judge in pending criminal cases before Cook.
Kelly stated in those motions that he has assisted in and advanced a federal investigation of Cook. He elaborated on the reasons for seeking substitution from Cook in only two of those motions.
He cited the cases of Deborah A. Perkins, 65, and Douglas Oliver II, 47, of Fairview Heights who were charged in September with concealment of the homicidal death of Jessica M. Williams of Collinsville.
Investigators identified Perkins and Oliver as being responsible for moving the body of Williams - who died of a heroin overdose – from Fairview Heights to Washington Park to conceal her death.
Kelly stated in the Perkins and Oliver motions that he had filed complaints with the Illinois Judicial Inquiry Board (JIB) and the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC).
In the other hundreds of motions Kelly filed, he referenced the reasons enumerated in Perkins and Oliver.
Since Cook was charged last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has filed charges against St. Clair County probation officer James K. Fogarty that accuse him of providing cocaine to Cook and Christ the day before the two judges went to the Pike County cabin.
Cook became an associate judge in 2007 and was appointed a circuit judge in 2010, filling the vacancy created by Annette Eckert’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.
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