Criminal

Anguish of judge in 911 tape who can't revive unconscious colleague echos emotion of court onlookers


News of drug charges against former Circuit Judge Michael Cook, who handled most of the drug cases in St. Clair County, and a county probation officer has rocked the local legal community.

“How come we didn’t know about Judge Cook? His office is 25 feet down the hall from mine,” Chief Circuit Judge John Baricevic told KSDK after news of the drug case against Cook, who recently resigned and is in rehab. “I saw him every day. He is in a courtroom every day with lawyers, police officers, and every Wednesday morning when he did drug court there would be five, six, or seven professional drug rehabilitation people in his courtroom. Nobody saw anything.”

And it isn’t just Cook, who stepped down last month after being federally charged with misdemeanor heroin possession, and the probation officer, James K. Fogarty, whose claimed drug-related conduct is at issue.

Judge Joe Christ, 49, died in March at the Cook family’s hunting cabin in Pike County. The county coroner has said the cause of death was cocaine intoxication, and Fogarty reportedly has claimed that he sold cocaine to both Christ and Cook not long before their final trip to the cabin, as discussed in a prior ABAJournal.com post.

No charges have been brought against anyone concerning Christ’s death. However, a “wide-ranging” investigation is being conducted after Cook’s and Fogarty’s arrests in separate incidents late last month, the local U.S. attorney says.

Fogarty is charged with selling cocaine to both judges, KSDK reports.

Meanwhile, there also is a possibility, authorities say, that some of Cook’s adjudicated cases will be reopened. He handled all but a small fraction of the drug court cases in St. Clair County, according to the station.

As the the Belleville News-Democrat and the Chicago Tribune, among other newspapers, began reporting over the weekend, Cook made an anguished March 10 phone call to 911, as he tried without success to revive Christ, who had apparently collapsed at the hunting cabin during a weekend trip.

“I love him,” Cook tells the dispatcher at one point. “Like a brother. Joe, Joe, Joseph, Joey. Please Joe, get up.”

The News-Democrat article includes a link to audio of the 911 call.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “‘Wide open’ probe ongoing into alleged sale of coke ‘eight-ball’ to 2 judges by probation officer”

Journal-Courier: “Editorial: Drug death taints system”

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