KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) - Federal prosecutors have until Dec. 19 to decide whether to proceed with murder-for-hire charges against a man accused of sex trafficking by force.
U.S. District Judge Robert E. Larsen ruled that if prosecutors want to present evidence at trial against Bradley Cook for a murder-for-hire plot against federal prosecutor Cynthia Cordes, then Cordes must be disqualified from the case.
"The danger is simply too great that the jury in this case would sympathize with the government to the detriment of the defendant because government counsel was the victim of a murder-for-hire plot engineered by the defendant," Larsen wrote.
Cook, 33, of Kirkwood, a suburb of St. Louis, is one of a group of men accused of brutally abusing a woman kept as a sex slave near Lebanon, Mo.
Prosecutors claim Cook tried to hire a hit man to kill Cordes, an assistant U.S. attorney who was prosecuting the case. Prosecutors used the claim in a motion to keep Cook in prison and be moved to a different jail, which Larsen approved.
Cook's attorney argued that there's no proof to support the murder-for-hire allegations. Cook's attorney has accused prosecutors of using deceptive jailhouse informants, playing up the accusations against Cook and hiding exculpatory information.
Judge Larsen "ORDERED that by December 19, 2011, the government file a written election indicating whether it intends to proceed with AUSA Cordes at the helm or whether she will withdraw in favor of the government's offering evidence of the alleged attempt to hire someone to murder her."
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.