Federal grand jury hears from Unsell clients

Ann Knef May 17, 2006, 10:44am

Attorney Ed Unsell

Clients of East Alton attorney Ed Unsell testified before a federal grand jury in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis Wednesday morning.

Unsell represents plaintiffs who filed a civil sexual assault lawsuit in Madison County against Thomas Lakin, founder of the Lakin Law Firm and a powerful figure in Madison County politics. The allegations involve sexual abuse of minors -- including a 15-year-old boy -- cocaine use and cover-up.

By 9 a.m., reporters and photographers from three newspapers and a St. Louis television news crew were positioned at various points inside and outside the federal courthouse on Missouri Avenue, anticipating the arrival of subpoenaed witnesses.

Unsell was seen accompanying a tight knit group of people to the courthouse shortly before 10 a.m.

Federal grand jury proceedings are closed to the public.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin F. Burke would not comment on the case, but he was seen through a glass window of the third floor grand jury room interviewing Unsell's clients.

Approximately 16 grand jurors were seen dispersing from the courthouse shortly after noon.

Unsell said he did not see Tom Lakin at the federal courthouse.

Bradley Lakin, Thomas Lakin's son and president of the law firm, Kristopher Lakin and the Wood River law firm also are named as defendants in the suit originally filed April 21, but kept under seal until May 12.

"During the year 2005 and subsequent to the foregoing episodes of childhood sexual abuse, L. Thomas Lakin conspired with other members of the Lakin Law Firm, specifically, Bradley Lakin and Kristopher Lakin to secret and spoil evidence of the sexual abuse," the complaint states.

Brad Lakin has emphatically denied the allegations contained in the Madison County lawsuit.

"The allegations of wrongdoing are lies, plain and simple," Brad Lakin said in a statement issued to the press last week.

The plaintiffs in the Madison County lawsuit filed under seal were listed as John Doe, by his mother and friend, Julie Doe, Joseph Doe, Jane Doe, by her mother and friend, Julie Doe, Mary Doe and James Doe.

On May 5, the day after the Record reported that a mysterious civil sexual assault complaint had been filed against a prominent member of the legal community, the plaintiffs withdrew their complaint and asked that it be expunged.

The Belleville News-Democrat filed an emergency motion to preserve the case, which was granted.

On May 12, Madison County's newly elected Chief Judge Ann Callis unsealed the case which had been sealed by former Chief Judge Ed Ferguson. When it was, the defendants, but not plaintiffs, were revealed. The case has not been refiled, but Unsell indicated it may be.

The plaintiffs also are represented by Thomas Q. Keefe of Swansea. Keefe was not present at the federal courthouse Wednesday.

According to the lawsuit, Thomas Lakin:

  • had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor plaintiff when he engaged in oral sex with the minor child;

  • had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor plaintiff when he solicited minor females to have sex with the minor plaintiff in his presence;

  • had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor plaintiff when he solicited two adult females to have sex with minor plaintiff in his presence; and

  • had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor plaintiff when he solicited the minor plaintiff to have sex with various females while he gratified his own sexual desires by masturbating while watching the minor plaintiff.

    Brad Lakin's statement continued: "I did not conceal evidence. The people making these allegations demanded 50 million dollards. I refused and am now not surprised they made their lawsuit public.

    "Let me be clear, I will not pay a dime.

    "I never asked for this case to be kept secret. I look forward to the time when the people who made these allegations in secret are willing to reveal themselves to this community and have to answer for these claims."

    The plaintiffs claim that Brad and Kristopher Lakin solicited the mother of John Doe to seek treatment in Canada to avoid detection of sexual abuse by local authorities, destroyed evidence at a home owned by Tom Lakin, and then sold the home.

    "The acts were intentional and designed to attempt to protect the reputation of the Lakin Law Firm and its ability to draw clients from the general public to produce a profit in the firm," the complaint alleges.

    Plaintiff Joseph Doe, who is now 23, claims that in 1998 and thereafter, Tom Lakin willfully and wantonly had an inappropriate sexual relationship with him.

    Jane Doe, another minor plaintiff, claims Tom Lakin used his influence as an adult and lawyer to entice her to his home where he offered her alcoholic beverages and cocaine.

    According to the complaint, when Jane Doe was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine, Tom Lakin solicited her to have sex with another minor child while in his presence.

    "While observing the minor plaintiff and another minor child engage in sex, Tom Lakin gave oral directions to the minor plaintiff and inquired as to whether the sex was pleasurable," the complaint states.

    Jane Doe also alleges that between 2005 and 2006, Kristopher Lakin also had an inappropriate sexual relationship with her.

    "The minor plaintiff was not capable of consent to the foregoing relationship and said relationship was an act of childhood sexual abuse," the complaint states.

    All of the children claim that the Lakin Law Firm along with Brad and Kristopher Lakin conspired to cover up the alleged crimes, which have denied them evidence to prove their claims of childhood sexual abuse, and further denied their chance to recover from his injuries by virtue of the abuser being charged criminally and brought to justice.

    The mother of the children, Mary Doe, claims that up until 2005, she was an employee of Tom Lakin and had been for 18 years.

    She claims that during her tenure as am employee for Tom Lakin, he knew or should have known that she went through two divorces and was for periods of time, a single mother of three.

    Mary Doe claims that Tom Lakin also knew, or should have known, that she was married to James Doe and as such, felt and experienced all of the natural emotions and love for her husband and children and the natural desire to care, support, house, feed and protect them from harm.

    She also claims that Tom Lakin knew that there was an extreme disparity between their incomes and wealth, education, sophistication, political connections and stature in the community but began an "extreme and outrageous" series of intentional acts.

    According to the complaint, Tom Lakin sexually abused her oldest male child and in an effort to discredit her in the event the abuse was discovered, began a course of conduct directed against her which included filing harassing lawsuits against her and her husband, in which he alleged that she was a drug abuser and an unfit mother. Mary Doe claims Tom Lakin also repossessed vehicles he had given her as gifts.

    Mary Doe also alleges that Tom Lakin purchased a house and then rented it to her so he could evict her, filed an eviction in Madison County courts listing the names of her minor children and conducted surveillance on her children at school through improper conversations with their teachers.

    She further alleges that Tom Lakin directed the repossession of a car her minor daughter was driving while she was attending class at Roxana High School, threatened her with further lawsuits for slander and punitive damages saying he is "the judge, the sheriff, everything in Madison County."

    Mary Doe also claims that Tom Lakin sexually abused her youngest male child and demonstrated an unusual interest in her minor daughter, including giving expensive gifts and trips, and making arrangements to be present on vacations.

    Steve Gonzalez contributed to this report.

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