Fear Factor

The Madison County Record Oct. 1, 2006, 9:28am

Is Thomas Lakin, as his accusers say, a "powerful man" who can make "anything go away"? From our perch, it sure seems like it.

Suffice to say that any other man accused of such child sex abuse horrors would have been picked up ages ago. And if the evidence were there, they'd be behind bars today-- no ifs, ands or buts.

But Lakin's a free man as of this writing, burdened only by a civil lawsuit filed in the spring. That suit, brought on behalf of six plaintiffs by lawyers Ed Unsell of East Alton and Thomas Keefe of Swansea, is now clearly playing the catalyst driving our public law enforcers to finally act.

Consider that way back in 2003, 21-year-old Alex Hawkins told the FBI that Lakin's house "was always full of teenagers using cocaine." He said Lakin always had teenage girls in his bedroom and that he gave them cocaine. Alton Police even investigated after a woman claimed she was drugged and raped there. Hawkins himself would die from a drug overdose a year later.

Last fall, county prosecutors reportedly heard more allegations against Lakin-- charges he gave alcohol to a teenager and abused him sexually. These claims now serve as the basis for the civil suit.

Our State's Attorney Bill Mudge had obviously heard as much. But he didn't move to protect the public from this man accused of such hideousness. Rather, he waited until this summer, then moved to protect himself, opting out of the case and calling for a special prosecutor.

No, Mudge didn't want to investigate or prosecute a man as fearsome as Thomas Lakin. He had a "conflict-of-interest." No kidding.

The problem is, this case isn't about speeding tickets. And it isn't even a fit of down home public graft or corruption. Lakin is graphically accused of giving drugs to and having sex with children.

Are we the only parents outraged by the seeming lack of it by our so-called "tough on crime" local prosecutors? Are we the only ones wondering how action wasn't taken in 2003 or 2004, action that could have prevented the alleged abuses of 2005? How would you feel if those were your children?

Madison County deserves public officials who will confront and clean up its own messes, not punt and call in the calvary.

We're all innocent until proven guilty, powerful trial lawyers included. And this one will have his day in court. But for all of our sakes, it's about time our protectors stopped fearing Thomas Lakin.

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