Lakin To Face Separate Trials On Sex, Drug Charges

By: Adam Jadhav
(reprinted from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), November 3, 2007)

Embattled Metro East lawyer Tom Lakin will have two trials, not one, on the federal allegations against him of sex and drug abuse, according to a judge’s ruling.

U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert said this week that a trial on the charge that Lakin took a minor boy across state lines with the intent to have sex will have to take place separately from another trial on seven counts related to his alleged use and distribution of cocaine.

The charges stem from a civil lawsuit originally filed in 2006 against Lakin. The suit alleged that the once prominent lawyer repeatedly abused a teenage boy – the son of one of Lakin’s secretaries – and set up cocaine-fueled sex orgies at his former home in East Alton. Prosecutors say Lakin took that boy on a vacation to California in hopes of coercing him into having sex.

Lakin’s lawyers argued for a separate trial, saying that the sex charge would prejudice any jury trying to decide on the drug charges. Prosecutors said they had evidence showing the drug and sex activity was all part of a common scheme by Lakin.

Gilbert sided with Lakin’s lawyers mostly on a technical basis. He said that because information in the indictment could not connect the sex charge with the other seven, federal rules require the charges to be tried separately – regardless of what evidence prosecutors had planned to produce.

However, Gilbert added that while he would sever the charges, he thought one trial would be "harmless" because he expected the evidence at both trials to overlap.

Lakin’s trial had been scheduled for Jan. 10; the details of the two new trials will be hammered out at a Dec. 14 hearing.

Lakin’s defense attorney, Scott Rosenblum, said he was pleased with the judge’s ruling. He declined to comment on whether he feared the decision would prompt prosecutors to seek more charges connecting all counts.

Asked for comment about the ruling, Randy Massey, the outgoing acting U.S. attorney for Southern Illinois, said: "The court order is clear. We’ll proceed."

The civil lawsuit that started the federal probe has been put on hold pending the outcome of the criminal case. An administrative proceeding regarding Lakin’s law license, currently before the regulatory arm of the Illinois Supreme Court, also has been stalled. A state criminal investigation also remains open.