Attorney Clyde Kuehn responded to an addendum supporting a motion for summary judgment in a sexual abuse lawsuit against Tom Lakin, arguing that stipulated bench trials occur in criminal court cases to avoid admission of guilt that a plea could generate in future cases.
“Stipulations that underpin findings of guilt in Illinois stipulated bench trials do not constitute judicial admissions in any other proceedings outside the criminal case in which they are made,” Kuehn wrote.
“Whatever was placed upon the record in Madison County, it cannot be the foundation for a summary judgment in this St. Clair County civil action."
Lakin was sued by John Doe, Mary Doe, Joseph Doe, Jane Doe, Julie Doe and James Doe in 2006, accusing Lakin of sexual acts with minors.
The case was originally filed under seal in Madison County, but former Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis unsealed and transferred the lawsuit to St. Clair County. Associate Judge Heinz Rudolph currently presides over the case.
Lakin was charged with sexual offenses and drug distribution by federal prosecutors. The sex charges were dismissed after he pleaded guilty to the drug charge. Then in 2011, he registered as a sex offender in criminal proceedings before Madison County Circuit Judge Charles Romani.
Lakin was scheduled to be released from a halfway house on Nov. 30.
The addendum for summary judgment Kuehn is arguing against was filed by plaintiff attorney Thomas Q. Keefe of Belleville on Oct. 21. Keefe claims that the stipulation Romani read into record was not challenged and was accepted as “my stipulation” by Ben Allen, Lakin’s defense attorney in the criminal case, thus grounding the stipulation in truth.
Lakin's stipulation states, “The stipulation of facts alleges the state and defendant herein stipulate to the truth of the following facts: That this offense occurred during and about April 2005 to October 2005; … L. Thomas Lakin was a family friend of [Doe]; that during this time period, while at the defendant’s home … the defendant performed oral sex on [Doe].”
In current proceedings in the civil case, Lakin states that he acknowledged the truth of the stipulation not because it was true, but for “alternative reasons.”
The defendant’s Nov. 19 response to arguments raised by Keefe states that a judicial admission is binding on the party making it in criminal court but becomes an ordinary evidentiary admission and is not binding in subsequent cases.
“In this civil action, if they indeed constitute admissions, something with which the defendant takes issue, they only constitute evidentiary admissions,” Kuehn states. “And evidentiary admissions can be explained and refuted down the road as a matter of law.”
Kuehn claims that defense attorney Allen understood how the testimony appeared from the alleged victim’s standpoint, clarifying his intention when stipulating and advising Lakin to proceed with a stipulated bench trial.
Allen’s affidavit states, “’I have gone over [the stipulation of facts]. I’m advising the court that I have advised Mr. Lakin that I am stipulating to the facts and that I’ve been presented with sufficient discovery that the state could and would be able to submit evidence supporting this, and that evidence, if believed of course, is sufficient to convict my client of a class 2 felony.’”
Allen’s intention and purpose was to dispose of the criminal case “by findings of guilt rather than by admission of guilt,” Kuehn argues.
“All that was being stipulated to in the defendant’s mind was that the state could produce certain accusatory testimony in court, testimony that if believed would be legally sufficient to support a verdict of guilt,” he wrote. “His understanding is entirely consistent with most stipulated bench trials conducted in this state.”
Kuehn further argues that neither Lakin nor Allen signed off on the written stipulation and were only bound by understanding of that which was read into record.
“There is nothing from which to conclude that Lakin executed and signed off on what was read into the record. Apparently, the stipulation as reduced to writing was not executed and admitted into evidence by Judge Romani. Here, by not placing a written stipulation into the record, there is no executed written stipulation the content of which would be potentially binding on its signatories.”
Regardless, Kuehn argues that even if the stipulation was taken as a binding judicial admission, summary judgment would still be improper.
“If this court was inclined to construe the record as a binding judicial admission, it would not be reason to grant a summary judgment motion for there would still be a genuine issue of material fact to be litigated in this civil action, despite the proceedings that transpired in the Madison County criminal matter.”
On Nov. 20, Rudolph continued a motion hearing in Lakin’s case until Dec. 11 at 1:30 p.m.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 6-L-363