Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Prosecutor Blocks Circuit Judge from Hearing Drug Cases

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Prosecutor Blocks Circuit Judge from Hearing Drug Cases

Article excerpt

Jefferson County Prosecutor George B. McElroy says that Circuit Judge John L. Anderson is too lenient on drug offenders and that he will block the judge from hearing any more drug cases.

Anderson's sentencing of a man to probation in a recent case provoked the action by McElroy, who says he may even try to keep the judge from hearing any criminal cases.

In criminal cases, a prosecutor or defense attorney can request one change of judge without offering a reason. Lawyers in Hillsboro said it was common for a prosecutor to openly complain about judges who do not rule as they wish.

Anderson said Friday he was surprised by the criticism, considering that he had sentenced to prison more criminals than the prosecutor had requested go there in plea arrangements this year.

The judge said McElroy's comments caused him to check his records. He said that in about 24 percent of guilty pleas he heard this year, the prosecutor's office had recommended prison time. "I sent 42 percent of them to prison," Anderson said.

"I don't think I have a reputation for leniency," Anderson said. He added that in 19 years as a circuit judge he had been disqualified by prosecutors in only two cases.

The case that provoked McElroy was that of Kim T. Cook, 34, of Crystal City. Earlier this year, a jury convicted him of selling crack cocaine and recommended 12 years in prison.

But an error by an assistant prosecutor during the trial caused Anderson to order a new trial. The assistant prosecutor had improperly mentioned that an alleged accomplice of Cook's had pleaded guilty. McElroy said the error should not have resulted in a new trial.

Cook entered an Alford plea earlier this month, neither admitting nor denying his guilt, but acknowledging that the state had enough evidence to get a conviction.

When Judge Anderson was ready to sentence Cook, the assistant prosecutor was in another court. …

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