Drug Problems on|Southern Illinois Bench

     BELLEVILLE, Ill. (CN) – Two months after a downstate Illinois judge died of a cocaine overdose, a second judge from his state circuit has resigned, facing federal gun and drug charges.
     St. Clair County Judge Michael N. Cook resigned in a letter to his Chief Judge John Baricevic, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Baricevic told the newspaper that he expected the letter.
     Cook, 43, of Belleville, was federally charged last week as an unlawful user of a controlled substance in possession of a firearm and with misdemeanor possession of heroin.
     Another St. Clair County judge, Joseph Christ, died of a cocaine overdose in March while staying with Cook at a Cook family resort in Pleasant Hill, Ill. A county coroner confirmed Christ’s cause of death last week, Illinois newspapers reported.
     Cook, who is free on $10,000 unsecured bail, pleaded not guilty. He entered a substance abuse treatment facility last week, the Post-Dispatch reported.
     If convicted, Cook faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
     Baricevic told the Post-Dispatch that he believes Cook’s outside access at the facility is restricted, so Cook resigned in a letter through his attorney.
     Cook was elected associate judge in 2007 after stints as a public defender and private attorney. He was appointed to fill a circuit judge vacancy in 2010 and was elected to a six-year term later that year.

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