EAST ST. LOUIS – Former St. Clair County probation officer James Fogarty pleaded guilty to supplying cocaine to Judge Joe Christ on Nov. 6, without taking back his claim that someone else’s cocaine killed the judge.
His plea agreement calls for a five year sentence, without extra years that federal prosecutors could recommend if they proved his crime resulted in death.
Christ was a long time prosecutor who had been a judge for only 10 days when he died of cocaine intoxification at a Pike County hunting lodge on March 10 in the company of former Circuit Judge Michael Cook.
Fogarty’s lawyers, Clyde Kuehn and son Justin Kuehn of Belleville, have argued that when he died he had metabolized the cocaine he got from Fogarty on March 8.
To plead guilty, Fogarty wore shirt, tie, and dark sport coat.
U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan read him the charges and said, “On your best day I can give you probation. On your worst day I can give you 30 years in the penitentiary.”
Reagan said that if he couldn’t accept the agreement, Fogarty could withdraw the plea.
Reagan said that under the agreement, the sentence could range from 57 to 71 months, and the fine could range from $10,000 to $100,000.
The agreement recommended 60 months, Reagan said.
He said the fine will be determined at his discretion, depending on family obligations.
“Once I accept, you are stuck with it," Reagan said.
He said that under the agreement, Fogarty must forfeit weapons and ammunition.
“The government will probably destroy them," he said.
He asked Fogarty if he believed the government can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he distributed cocaine.
Fogarty said yes.
Reagan asked the same question about a separate charge that Fogarty possessed firearms while using cocaine.
Fogarty said yes.
Reagan read a stipulation between Fogarty and the government, that Fogarty delivered cocaine to Joseph Christ on March 8.
“You would have to have been living under a rock the past six months to not know that Joe Christ died,” he said.
He told Fogarty, “If your involvement was such that it resulted in death or bodily harm to anyone, I won’t accept the agreement.”
Reagan told the former probation officer to be truthful with probation officers preparing a report for his sentencing.
“Lie to them, lie to me,” Reagan said.
He set sentencing for Feb. 28.
(Editor's note: This story has been updated. A previous version incorrectly identified District Judge David Herndon as presiding over the hearing).