December 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
2013: St. Clair County drug scandal – deaths, addictions and convictions
Shocking is an understatement, but it’s one way to describe a drug scandal that rocked the St. Clair County Courthouse in 2013.
St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael Cook was arrested by federal agents on May 23 at the Belleville residence of his customary drug dealer. Cook, who had presided over criminal cases including drug felonies and murders, quickly resigned, sought treatment out of state and pleaded guilty in federal court on Nov. 8 to possessing heroin while in possession of firearms.
Cook’s arrest came two months after the death of his friend and colleague, Associate Judge Joe Christ. Cook found Christ’s body on March 10, in the Pike County hunting lodge of Cook’s father, Belleville lawyer Bruce Cook.
At the time of his death, the public was informed by St. Clair County officials that Christ, a long time prosecutor for the State’s Attorney’s office who had only been a judge for less than two weeks, died of natural causes. The public was informed months later by Pike County Sheriff Paul Petty that Christ died of cocaine intoxification.
Cook’s plea agreement with federal prosecutors recommends an 18-month sentence, three years of supervised release and a fine within guidelines. His sentencing will take place on Jan. 17. In the meantime, prosecutors on Dec. 13 filed a presentence investigation report under seal.
The agreement requires Cook to forfeit all of his weapons and ammunition, which, according to a three-page list, includes 13 shotguns, 10 rifles and 10 other firearms, as well as plenty of rounds, shells and cartridges.
In connection with Cook’s arrest, the feds also took down Cook’s supplier Sean McGilvery of Belleville. He pleaded guilty Oct. 17 to conspiring to distribute heroin. In his stipulation, McGilvery said that Cook would “pick up amounts of heroin on an almost daily basis” from his residence. He will be sentenced Jan. 23 and faces 10 years to life.
The feds separately arrested St. Clair County probation officer James Fogarty in May, after showing him text messages that implicated him as Christ’s cocaine dealer. He pleaded guilty Nov. 6 to supplying cocaine to Christ and awaits sentencing Feb. 28.
According to an FBI agent’s affidavit, Fogarty said he “did a line” with Cook and Christ and sold them a split “eight ball” of cocaine for $140 each the day before the judges went to the Pike County lodge in March. Fogarty also told the agent that the men used drugs together on multiple occasions, including golf outings, at a hunting cabin and at his Belleville residence, according to the affidavit.
Fogarty’s plea agreement calls for a five-year sentence, without extra years that federal prosecutors could recommend if they proved his crime resulted in death.
“On your best day I can give you probation,” said U.S. District Judge Michael Reagan to Fogarty. “On your worst day I can give you 30 years in the penitentiary.”
He also said, “If your involvement was such that it resulted in death or bodily harm to anyone, I won’t accept the agreement.”
Two major players in the distribution conspiracy were arrested in January, pleaded guilty in August and were sentenced in December.
Agents arrested Deborah Perkins, who ran her home at 20 Kassing Drive in Fairview Heights as a drug market, after a confidential source told them she would step off a bus in St. Louis with a load of heroin.
Feds also indicted her son, Douglas Oliver, and Eric Beckley of Centreville, as dealers under her direction.
Perkins distributed locally through Oliver, McGilvery and Beckley. Beckley pleaded guilty on Oct. 31, and awaits sentencing in March.
At sentencing on Dec. 5, Perkins and Oliver faced not only U.S. District Judge David Herndon, but also the mothers and 12 other relatives of Jessie Williams and Jennifer Herling, whose deaths resulted from their crimes.
Jenny Thomason, mother of Williams, said, “They dumped my daughter’s body.”
“They show no remorse for their actions,” Thomason said. “Because of their actions I will never get to see my daughter again. I’ll never hold her in my arms one last time.”
Chris Keel, mother of Herling, said, “I don’t see my daughter’s death as an accident.”
“Deep in my heart I know they murdered my daughter. If we robbed a bank and somebody got killed, we would all be in trouble. It was her house. It was her that went and got the drugs. It was her that gave the drugs to her son.”
Oliver accepted a 30-year sentence for selling heroin. Perkins was sentenced to 27 years for her role in the conspiracy.
Whether the drug investigation is wrapped up or ongoing remains an open question.
Oliver dropped a clue that an investigation of St. Clair County corruption continues. He told Herndon that he is cooperating with St. Clair County authorities.
Prosecutor Robert Garrison at the sentencing hearing apparently hadn’t expected him to reveal his cooperation. Garrison rose and told Herndon that because Oliver had made the statement in open court, he would confirm it.
U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton has indicted dozens of drug defendants this year without indicating whether he caught them in the same investigation that caught Cook.
One such connection popped up from the mass on Oct. 18, when Augustus Stacker of Belleville pleaded guilty of cocaine distribution.
He and the government stipulated that he supplied cocaine to Fogarty, and that one of their transactions was audio recorded on May 23.
The stipulation suggested that the investigation continues, by declaring that Stacker bought cocaine from “persons in the Southern District of Illinois.”
Another sign of ongoing investigation appeared in a detention order that Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams signed for Beckley.
Williams afforded him “reasonable opportunity for private consultation with counsel,” which a defendant would not normally need after pleading guilty.
Williams wrote that by court order or on request of a government attorney, Beckley’s prison warden must deliver him to a U.S. marshal “for the purpose of an appearance in connection with a court proceeding.”
By coincidence or not, two men in the mass of defendants pleaded guilty on Oct. 31.
Michael Scott Jr. stipulated that he sold an ounce of cocaine to a confidential informant for $1,400, on July 2 in Washington Park.
Deanthony Tillman stipulated that he sold two grams of crack to a confidential informant for $200, on June 27 in East St. Louis.
What kind of fallout has resulted from the scandal?
On Oct. 2, Circuit Judge Robert Haida ordered a new trial for murder suspect William Cosby, who was convicted by jurors on April 23.
Cosby won a new trial after trying to remove public defender Charles Baricevic, son of Chief Judge John Baricevic, from his case for failing to argue that the drug addiction of Cook corrupted his trial.
Cosby filed a pro se motion to withdraw Baricevic on Aug. 22, writing that his attorney “steadfastly refuses” to raise issues Cosby wanted to raise.
Cosby wrote that the issues concerned Cook’s “conduct, demeanor, impatience and obvious drug problem while presiding over this case.”
He wrote that he would raise more issues after receiving a transcript.
Cosby apparently didn’t know that his message had finally gotten through.
On Aug. 16, Baricevic had amended Cosby’s motion for a new trial to argue that Cook could not have conducted a fair trial.
Baricevic wrote that “criminal activity may have occurred during the course of trial.”
Haida denied Cosby’s motion to withdraw Baricevic on Aug. 27, and Baricevic represented Cosby at a hearing on Sept. 18.
Baricevic followed with a brief on Oct. 1, writing that the state was both an investigator of a sitting judge and a party to that judge’s bench.
“It defeats the purpose of a fair trial for one party to litigation to be privy to that information and not another, particularly when the unknowing party is the defendant to a first degree murder charge,” Baricevic wrote.
“The defendant cannot point to a specific instance when Judge Cook was on drugs. The defendant is neither an expert nor familiar with addicts.”
On Oct. 30, Haida granted a new trial to murder suspect Gregory Muse, who challenged his conviction by a jury in Cook’s court.
Cook presided over Muse’s trial on March 12 and 13, two and three days after he found the dead body of Christ in the Cook family hunting lodge near Pittsfield.
Public defender Erin Conner moved for a new trial for Muse in April. In August, Conner amended Muse’s motion to claim Cook’s addiction tainted the trial.
She argued that State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly should have disclosed to Muse that federal prosecutors were investigating Cook.
Conner also argued that Kelly should have filed motions to continue the trial and substitute another judge for Cook.
In September, assistant state’s attorney Deborah Phillips answered that Conner didn’t identify any error that Cook committed.
She wrote that disclosure might have compromised the investigation.
In response, Conner wrote that the state may not withhold material evidence without violating due process.
“Cook had slurred speech during the reading of the jury instructions,” Conner wrote.
“Had Defendant known that Cook’s capacity was in question, Defendant would have moved to substitute Cook.”
Drug testing for some – but not the judiciary
St. Clair County employees can expect random drug tests under a policy the county board adopted on Sept. 30.
County board members approved a policy which makes testing mandatory for employees and optional for themselves, citing a precedent (Chandler v. Miller) that lifts politicians above suspicion.
The old policy was just three sentences long, the new one is 17 pages. The policy does not encompass the judiciary.
“Random tests shall be unannounced and conducted at various times during the year,” the new policy provides.
A new employee must pass a test before starting work, and a current employee must pass one before moving up to a managerial position.
The policy also authorizes the county to test any employee for probable cause.
While the judiciary is exempt from mandatory drug testing, some judges have expressed a willingness to submit to voluntary testing and reveal results to the public, including the two candidates running for former Judge Cook’s seat – Circuit Judge Stephen McGlynn, a Republican, and Associate Judge Heinz Rudolf.
(Steve Korris contributed to this report).
More Stories by Ann Maher
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- Franklin and McGonigle join HeplerBroom as associates
- Attorneys in Lightspeed case appeal Murphy sanctions
- Simmons gets into newspaper business with purchase of Today’s Advantage
- Nussbaumer joins Williams Venker & Sanders asbestos team
- HeplerBroom attorney named Missouri ‘Super Lawyer Top 50′
- McGlynn and Rudolf to seek Cook’s seat in ’14 election; Candidates favor drug testing
- Magee named in ‘Top 50′ St. Louis ‘Super Lawyers’
- Wells makes presentations at ISBA event
- Eight Sandberg Phoenix attorneys selected as ‘Top Rated Lawyers’
December 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
“I’m a good judge” … said by government employee and judge Gisele Pollack who, it seems, sentenced people to jail because of their drug use…while she, herself, was high on drugs.
But, in her defense, “she’s had some severe personal tragedy in her life”.
And that’s why, it seems, she’s being allowed to check herself into rehab instead of being thrown in jail.
…because not a single poor person or non government employee who gets caught using drugs ever “had some severe personal tragedy in her life”.
I’m reminded of something I read earlier today:
We’ve discussed the whole “high court/low court” concept here a few times before — in that those who are powerful play by one set of rules, while the rest of us have to play by a very different set of rules.
The end result seems clear. If you’re super high up in the political chain, you get the high court. Reveal classified info to filmmakers? No worries. Not only will you not be prosecuted or even lose your job, the inspectors will scrub your name from the report and, according to the article, the person in charge of the investigation will “slow roll” the eventual release of the report until you switch jobs.
But if you’re just a worker bee and you leaked the unclassified draft report that names Panetta and Vickers? Well, you get the low court. A new investigation, including aggressive pursuit by the government, and interrogations of staffers to try to find out who leaked the report.
Twenty years ago I was a libertarian. I thought the system could be reformed. I thought that some parts of it “worked”… whatever that means. I thought that the goals were noble, even if not often achieved.
The older I get, the more I see, the more I read, the more clear it becomes to me that the entire game is rigged. The leftists and the rightists each see half of the fraud. The lefties correctly note that a poor kid caught with cocaine goes to jail, while a Bush can write it off as a youthful mistake (they somehow overlook the fact that their man Barrack hasn’t granted clemency to any one of the people doing federal time for the same felonies he committed). The righties note that government subsidized windmills kill protected eagles with impunity while Joe Sixpack would be deep in the crap if he even picked up a dead eagle from the side of the road. The lefties note that no one was prosecuted over the financial meltdown. The righties note that the Obama administration rewrote bankruptcy law on the fly to loot value from GM stockholders and hand it to the unions. The lefties note that Republicans tweak export rules to give big corporations subsidies. Every now and then both sides join together to note that, hey! the government is spying on every one of us…or that, hey! the government stole a bunch of people’s houses and gave them to Pfizer, because a privately owned for-profit corporation is apparently what the Constitution means by “public use”.
What neither side seems to realize is that the system is not reformable. There are multiple classes of people, but it boils down to the connected, and the not connected. Just as in pre-Revolutionary France, there is a very strict class hierarchy, and the very idea that we are equal before the law is a laughable nonsequitr.
Jamal the $5 weed slinger, Shaneekwa the hair braider, and Loudmouth Bob in the 7-11 parking lot are at the bottom of the hierarchy. They can,literally, be killed with impunity … as long as the dash cam isn’t running. And, hell, half the time they can be killed even if the dash cam isrunning. This isn’t hyperbole, mother-fucker. This is literal. Question me and I’ll throw 400 cites and 20 youtube clips at you.
Next up from Shaneekwa and Loudmouth Bob are us regular peons. We can have our balls squeezed at the airport, our rectums explored at the roadside, our cars searched because the cops got permission from a dog (I owe some Reason intern a drink for that one), our telephones tapped (because terrorism!), our bank accounts investigated (because FinCEN! and no expectation of privacy!). We don’t own the house we live in, not if someone of a higher social class wants it. We don’t own our own financial lives, because the
education accreditation / student loan industry / legal triumvirate have declared that we can never escape – even through bankruptcy – our $200,000 debt that a bunch of adults convinced a can’t-tell-his-ass-from-a-hole-in-the-ground 18 year old that (a) he was smart enough to make his own decisions, and (b) college is a time to explore your interests and broaden yourself). And if there’s a “national security emergency” (defined as two idiots with a pressure cooker), then the constitution is suspended, martial law is declared, and people are hauled out of their homes.
Next up from the regular peons are the unionized, disciplined-voting-blocks. Not-much-brighter-than-a-box-of-crayolas teachers who work 180 days a year and get automatic raises. Firefighters who disproportionately retire on disability the very day they sub in for their bosses and get a paper cut.
A step up from the teachers and firefighters are the cops: all the same advantages of nobility of the previous group, but a few more in addition: the de facto power to murder someone as long as not too many cameras are rolling. The de facto power to confiscate cameras in case the murder wasn’t well planned. A right to keep and bear arms that far exceeds that of the serf class: 50 state concealed carry for life, not just just for actual cops, but even for retired cops.
At the same level of privilege as cops, but slightly off to one side is different class of nobility: the judiciary and the prosecutors. Judges and prosecutors can’t execute citizens in an alley, a parking lot, or their own homes (“he had a knife! …and I don’t care what the lying video says.”), but they can sentence people to decades in jail for things that any clear-minded reading of the Constitution and the 9th and 10th amendments make clear are not with in the purview of the government. They have effectively infinite resources. They orchestrate perp walks. They selectively leak information to shame defendants. They buy testimony from other defendants by promising them immunity. By exercising their discretion they make sure that the bad people are prosecuted while the good people (i.e. members of their own clan) are not.
Above the cops, the prosecutors, and the judiciary we have the true ruling class: the cabal of (most) politicians and (some) CEOs, conspiring both against their own competitors and the public at large. If the public is burdened with a $100 million debt to pay off a money losing stadium, that’s a small price to pay if a politician gets reelected (and gets to hobnob with entertainers and sports heroes via free tickets and backstage passes). If new entrants into a market are hindered and the populace ends up overpaying for coffins, or Tesla cars, or wine that can’t be mail ordered, then that’s a small price to pay if a connected CEO can keep his firm profitable without doing any work to help the customer. If the Google founders want to agitate for Green laws that make Joe Sixpack’s daily commute more expensive at the same time that they buy discount avgasfor their private flying fuck palaces, then isn’t that their right? They donated to Obama’s campaign after all!
I could keep myself up all night and into tomorrow by listing different groups of royalty and the ways they scam the system.
…except “scam the system” is a misnomer. I am not listing defects in a perfectable system. I am describing the system.
It is corrupt, corrupt, corrupt. From Ted Kennedy who killed a woman and yet is toasted as a “lion of liberalism”, to George Bush who did his share of party drugs (and my share, and your share, and your share…) while young yet let other youngsters rot in jail for the exact same excesses instead of waving his royal wand of pardoning, to thousand of well-paid NSA employees who put the Stasi to shame in their ruthless destruction of our rights, to the Silicon Valley CEOs who buy vacation houses with the money they make forging and selling chains to Fort Meade, to every single bastard at RSA who had a hand in taking the thirty pieces of silver, to the three star generals who routinely screw subordinates and get away with it (even as sergeants are given dishonorable discharges for the same thing), to the MIT cops and Massachusetts prosecutor who drove Aaron Swartz to suicide, to every drug court judge who sends 22 year olds to jail for pot…while high on Quaalude and vodka because she’s got some fucking personal tragedy and no one understands her pain, to every cop who’s anally raped a citizen under color of law, to every other cop who’s intentionally triggered a “drug” dog because the guy looked guilty, to every politician who goes on moral crusades while barebacking prostitutes and money laundering the payments, to every teacher who retired at age 60 on 80% salary, to every cop who has 50 state concealed carry even while the serfs are disarmed, to every politician, judge, or editorial-writer who has ever used the phrase “first amendment zone” non-ironically: this is how the system is designed to work.
The system is not fixable because it is not broken. It is working, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to give the insiders their royal prerogatives, and to shove the regulations, the laws, and the debt up the asses of everyone else.
Burn it to the ground.
Burn it to the ground.
Burn it to the ground.
Last 5 posts by Clark
- Burn the Fucking System to the Ground – December 23rd, 2013
- Clark’s Favorite Books Part 1: Science Fiction – December 21st, 2013
- Give To Those In Need – December 20th, 2013
- Best Article / Best Headline on our Rape-Happy Police State – December 20th, 2013
- The Political Is Personal. Why? – December 19th, 2013
December 20, 2013 § Leave a comment
When families fear human services
BY KANYA D’ALMEIDA | LAST UPDATED: DEC 19, 2013 – 11:14:36 AM
Teacher and child at the USDA Child Development Center in Wash, DC.Photo: MGN-Online
PHILADELPHIA – It is nearly impossible in this day and age to turn on the news without hearing about systemic racial discrimination in the United States.
Ample evidence shows that disproportionate numbers of Blacks are imprisoned, subject to police brutality, excluded from employment opportunities and denied decent healthcare, compared to their White counterparts.
One government agency has, by and large, escaped such scrutiny. It goes by different names in different places: Child Protective Services, the Department of Youth and Family Services, or the Department of Child and Family Services.
In Philadelphia, it’s known as the Department of Human Services, or DHS, and by its own admission it is responsible for moving roughly 3,000 children in this city of 1.5 million people into “out-of-home” care every year.
According to Todd Lloyd, child welfare policy director of the non-profit organization Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, “The most recent annual data shows 9,205 children entering foster care in [the state of] Pennsylvania, with about 71.7 percent of those children being first-time entries, as opposed to re-entries.”
Mr. Lloyd told IPS that Philadelphia County has the highest “placement rate” in the state, with 14 per 1,000 children being moved to out-of-home care every year—over twice the national rate of 6.4 per 1,000 children.
The National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, meanwhile, reports that DHS Philadelphia removes children at up to six times the rate of other cities of its size.
It is not the rate of transfer alone that has families in Philadelphia on edge but the racially lopsided nature of the entire child welfare system: studies show that while only 50.3 percent of Philadelphia’s children are Black, they comprise 73 percent of children in foster care.
Officials dismiss this discrepancy with a single explanation: poverty. The poverty rate for Blacks in Philadelphia, according to a survey conducted by Pew in 2013, is 39 percent—exceeded only by the poverty rate in Detroit.
Still, to remove a child from his or her home, federal law states that human services agencies must first establish proof of neglect, mistreatment or abuse.
In reality, critics say, this provision is a catch-22 for low-income families. For instance, the state of Pennsylvania’s definition of neglect includes “failure to provide essentials of life, including adequate medical care, that endangers a child’s life or development or impairs the child’s functioning”—in short, a perfect definition of poverty.
According to NCCPR Executive Director Richard Wexler, the correlation of poverty with neglect is so widespread that a full “30 percent of foster children in the U.S. could be home right now if their parents just had decent housing.”
Child protection agencies like Philadelphia’s DHS—which declined IPS requests to comment on the issue—say the vast majority of children removed from their homes were being abused. Indeed, some 3.6 million children were investigated as potential victims of abuse in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Digging a little deeper, however, the NCCPR found that “2.8 million of those children—nearly four-fifths of them—were subjects of reports that turned out to be false.”
That child abuse is a reality in far too many homes cannot be denied. According to Mr. Lloyd, the most recent annual child abuse report issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare found 3,408 “substantiated” reports of child abuse in 2011.
But activists working with families whose children have been taken from them say this data must be carefully examined in the context of racial bias: several studies have shown that toddlers with similar injuries were three times more likely to be reported to DHS Philadelphia if the family was Black or Latino.
Phoebe Jones, a member of DHS-Give Us Back Our Children—a Philadelphia-based self-help group coordinated by the Every Mother is a Working Mother Network—told IPS that foster homes have become notorious in Philadelphia as places where abuse is rampant.
“In general, children are worse off as a result of fostering,” she said, citing several studies that found abuse in one-quarter to one-third of foster homes. “The record of group homes and institutions is even worse,” she added.
Earlier this year dozens of families—particularly mothers, aunts and grandmothers—expressed outrage when the United Nations bestowed its prestigious Public Service Award on DHS Philadelphia for its efforts to “improve the outcomes of children in foster care.”
“DHS is breaking up families in this city,” Ms. Jones said in a press release back in June. “We want to know why the UN gave this award without consulting families in Philadelphia. Did they decide on this honor from conferring with officials at cocktail parties? We never heard of them conferring with grassroots people impacted.” (IPS)
December 20, 2013 § Leave a comment
Bar To Their Re-election?
8 Judges Rated Poorly By 2 Or More Lawyer Groups
More than a quarter of the 261 full circuit judges in Cook County–72 in all–could lose their jobs on Nov. 3.
Every six years, county judges must come up for retention and get 60 percent “yes” votes from voters to keep their jobs. In addition, 44 lawyers are running for 25 vacancies on the bench.
Eight of those up for retention were “not recommended” by two or more bar groups, which rate the judges before the election. They include:
– Judge Susan J. McDunn, who ordered a rare hearing for an uncontested adoption by a same-sex couple.
“Why are we doing something differently because the adopting parents are gay and lesbian couples?” asked adoption attorney Rick Lifshitz, who has followed the case.
McDunn said she could not comment on a pending case.
– Judge Jeffrey Lawrence has made inappropriate comments to women attorneys who practice before him in divorce court, according to the Chicago Council of Lawyers.
Lawrence denies that. “I am a respecter of women,” he said. “My wife is an accomplished hospital administrator.”
– Judge Edna Turkington “exhibits on occasion a wholly inadequate grasp of the legal issues before her” according to the Chicago Council of Lawyers. Turkington declined to comment.
– Judge Llwellyn “Lynn” Greene-Thapedi “can be indecisive and inconsistent in her rulings,” the Chicago Council of Lawyers said in its evaluation. “Fully half of the lawyers we interviewed who have appeared before Judge Greene-Thapedi in her current assignment recommended against retention.”
Greene-Thapedi declined to comment.
– Judge Leida J. Gonzalez Santiago had only seven years’ experience practicing law when she was slated for her seat by her husband, Miguel Santiago, a former alderman being tried in federal court on ghost payrolling charges.
The Chicago Council of Lawyers and the Chicago Bar Association said Gonzalez Santiago, who sits in divorce court, has little grasp of the law. She declined to comment.
The other three who received “not recommended” ratings from two or more groups are Judge William D. O’Neal, who sits in the Markham suburban court, Criminal Court Judge Janice R. McGaughey and Judge Dorothy F. Jones, the only judge who refused to participate in any bar group’s evaluation process.
Leaders of the city’s legal community urge voters not to take a “throw the bums out” approach to judges because “some of the best and the brightest” are on the ballot, said Chicago Bar Association President Leonard J. Schrager.
Presiding judges found “highly recommended” by some bar groups for cleaning up some troubled courts include Nancy Sidote Salyers at juvenile court; Timothy C. Evans at divorce court; and Patrick McGann at traffic court.
Eight bar groups unanimously found 63 of the 72 judges running for retention recommended.
In an effort to boost voter interest in the often-ignored judicial retention elections, the Chicago Bar Association is printing up 300,000 copies of its judicial evaluations to pass out to voters before the election, Schrager said.