Accusations that multiple St. Clair county court officials bought and used drugs have prompted a federal investigation, and based on the latest accounts, there is a lot to investigate. In what is shaping up to be a truly unbelievable case, authorities say that Circuit Judge Michael Cook and Associate Judge Joseph Christ both bought cocaine from a man named James Fogarty, a probation officer in the county. Cook and Christ then allegedly went to the Cook family's hunting lodge in Pike County -- where Christ reportedly died from a cocaine overdose.
In addition to the scrutiny Cook, 43, is facing over his colleague's death, the judge is now up against charges of heroin possession -- and illegal firearm possession.
If that wasn't absurd enough, at his hearing on Friday, Cook, reports say, wore cut-off jeans and a blue t-shirt that said, "Bad is my middle name."
This scandal widened on Friday with Fogarty, the probation worker, facing charges that he repeatedly used cocaine with the two judges -- and provided the fatal dose, the Post-Dispatch reports.
Fogarty, 45, is up against cocaine possession and distribution charges.
And Cook is facing a misdemeanor charge of heroin possession as well as a charge of having a firearm while illegally using a controlled substance. He pleaded not guilty last week.
News of these charges came out just as toxicology reports offered more details on the death of Cook's colleague on his property. Christ, a 49-year-old father of six, was found dead in a bathroom at the Cook family lodge about 65 miles north of St. Louis on the night of March 10, police say. He was sworn in as a judge just a week prior to his death.
The criminal complaint against Cook also alleges that he is a drug addict.
Fogarty reportedly told officials that Christ had used cocaine on weekends -- and that Cook had used cocaine at Fogarty's house on about ten different occasions..
Regarding the growing scandal, John Baricevic, St. Clair County's chief judge said:
We're doing whatever we can to get to the bottom of whatever the issue is. Any community has to have confidence in public servants, including judges. That they're fair, honest and act with integrity. If they're not, we owe them an appropriate response.
Cook has a notable history working in criminal justice. He was formerly an assistant public defender and then became an associate circuit judge in 2007 before he won a six-year term in 2010 as a circuit judge.
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Riverfront Times Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Riverfront Times Club for as little as $5 a month.