• Courthouse drug scandal spurs bids for retrials

    by  • October 21, 2013 • News

    The fallout from the courthouse scandal involving former St. Clair County circuit judge Michael Cook is beginning to take root. Fellow judges are weighing whether to grant retrials to defendants convicted under Cook, who’s been charged with

    Michael Cook

    Michael Cook

    possessing heroin and having a gun while on controlled substances.

    Cook resigned after federal prosecutors filed charges against him.

    The challenge for St. Clair’s judicial system has been summed up by one defendant’s attorney as “a novel affair” that may not be covered by legal precedent.

    The county prosecutor, Brendan Kelly, has called it “a man-made disaster.” Kelly’s office has argued against new trials, without directly addressing allegations Cook was impaired on the bench.

    Cook has pleaded not guilty. He has agreed to have his law license suspended and sought drug treatment.

    According to the Belleville News-Democrat, Cook presided over hundreds of serious felony cases during his tenure.

    During his time on the bench, Cook presided over 1,705 felony cases.

    The publication shows that of those cases:

    • ¬†eight were bench trials — five ended in not guilty verdicts and three ended in guilty verdicts.
    • 1,102 resulted in guilty pleas.
    • 24 were jury trials — four resulted in not guilty verdicts and 20 resulted in guilty verdicts.