BELLEVILLE, Ill. (AP) – A former southwestern Illinois prosecutor and a judge quietly dismissed traffic tickets against two men also accused in a drug scandal that turned tragic with the prosecutor’s eventual cocaine death, according to a newspaper report.
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly said the alleged ticket-fixing surfaced during an audit of Joe Christ’s work as a prosecutor under Kelly before Christ died in March, the Belleville News-Democrat reported Thursday.
That review also includes activities of Michael Cook, who last week resigned as a circuit judge after being charged with federal heroin and gun counts; and Jim Fogarty, a county probation officer accused of selling cocaine to Cook and Christ. Both Cook, 43, and Fogarty, 44, have pleaded not guilty and are free on bond.
Authorities have said Cook found the body of the 49-year-old Christ while the two were at the Cook family’s western Illinois hunting cabin.
“This is a man-made disaster. No one from [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] is going to come and clean this up,” Kelly said of the review, which he expects will consume “a significant amount of manpower.”
With Cook’s help, Christ in his final days as prosecutor worked to dismiss without fines, court costs or court appearances tickets against Fogarty and longtime Cook friend Sean McGilvery, who federal prosecutors have charged with two felony drug counts.
According to the newspaper, the day before Christ was sworn in as an associate judge on Feb. 26, he recommended throwing out a Belleville police ticket to McGilvery, 34, for having an expired driver’s license and registration.
The previous day, Christ got Cook to toss out a ticket issued to Fogarty for disobeying a railroad crossing device, an offense carrying up to a $250 fine.
The ticket-fixing appeared to be beyond the scope of the prosecutor and judge’s typical duties; both men largely handled felony matters.
Federal law enforcers have said the investigation of the courthouse drug scandal continues. During a bond hearing Tuesday for Fogarty, a federal prosecutor said Fogarty has implicated “prominent people” in and around Belleville.
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