Judge Stiehl recuses in drug and weapons case against Cook

By Ann Maher | Aug 29, 2013

U.S. District Judge William Stiehl has recused himself from the government’s drug and weapons case against former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook.

An order entered Aug. 28 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois provides no reason for the recusal, only that the case has been transferred to Chief Judge David Herndon for further proceedings.

Prosecutors charged Cook May 24 with possession of heroin and being an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of firearms. He entered a not guilty plea to both charges. He stepped down from the bench shortly after charges were filed and entered into a drug treatment facility in Minnesota following an order signed by Magistrate Judge Clifford J. Proud setting conditions of his release.

Cook’s case was initially assigned to U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan, who recused himself from the start. The case then transferred to Stiehl.

In the three months Stiehl has presided over Cook’s case, the judge has ruled on attorney appearance motions and set and continued hearing dates.

A final pre-trial hearing is scheduled Sept. 23; trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 1.

In July, the Illinois Supreme Court suspended Cook from the practice of law on an interim basis as a result of the charges. The court entered the order after the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) filed an agreed petition for interim suspension at the end of June.

The ARDC attached three exhibits to the agreed petition: 1) an affidavit from one of Cook’s attorneys, Belleville attorney Thomas Q, Keefe, III, stating that his client “joins in the petition freely and voluntarily,” 2) a copy of the criminal information against Cook and 3) an affidavit of Joseph Murphy, a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that was filed in James Fogarty’s criminal case.

Fogarty, a former employee in the St. Clair County probation department, was charged in May with possession of cocaine with intent to deliver and being an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm. He has also pleaded not guilty.

He is accused of supplying drugs to Cook and the late Associate Judge Joseph Christ, who died March 10 of cocaine intoxication at a Cook family-owned Pike County hunting cabin. He allegedly told an FBI agent that he had used drugs with both judges on multiple occasions.

In addition to Cook and Fogarty, federal prosecutors in May charged Belleville resident Sean McGilvery with conspiracy to distribute and possess more than 1 kilogram of heroin with the intent to deliver. Cook was arrested at McGilvery’s home.

McGilvery, represented by public defender Rodney Holmes, will go to trial Sept. 16.

Fogarty, represented by Clyde Kuehn and Justin Kuehn of Belleville, will go to trial on Nov. 18.

Edwardsville attorney J. William Lucco also represents Cook.

Bethany Krajelis contributed to this report. 

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