It's hard to say "no" to the most charming guy in the room; the self-made one with the rags-to-riches story, who rubs shoulders as effortlessly at a union hall as he does with cabinet members.
Tom Lakin grew up in Roxana. He once called the U.S. President a friend.
It's hard to say "stop" to the richest guy in the room; the one with homes in Malibu and Key West and his own private planes, who heaps generosity on his friends when they're running for public office.
It's hard to say no when you fear the retribution; when you're afraid of what the money and clout could do to you and your family.
But someone, anyone, should have.
They didn't. Which left the federal government to come to Madison County to enforce the law; to protect our children and clean up the horrible mess Mr. Lakin has wrought.
And to think this could have been stopped so much sooner.
Four years ago, Lakin was carrying on publicly about his pal and former trial wingman Gordon Maag. Maag would win a spot on the Illinois Supreme Court, then head to Washington, D.C. He'd be appointed to the highest court in the land by then U.S. President Rod Blagojevich.
Tom Lakin would have another friend in the White House. That was his dream. That's what he told the rank-and-file Democrats of Madison County.
Of course, Lakin himself was a rank-and-file Democrat, too. He held no official position of public trust. But those who did played content to drink the Kool-Aid. Madison County would someday become a launching pad for U.S. Supreme Court justices, Lakin promised, its rich and powerful would effect change on a larger stage, and he'd sit at the center of it all.
Sure, there were rumors about Lakin's personal behavior; about unspeakable acts. But they were just rumors and, well, why interrupt the party?
In its indictment of Tom Lakin this week, a federal government prosecutor said he had "dozens upon dozens of witnesses" ready to testify that the once-prominent plaintiff's attorney sought child sex, and that his East Alton home was a drug party palace for minors.
We have to wonder. If all these people knew then, where were local police? The sheriff? The state's attorneys? The parents?
As details unfold in the tragedy of Tom Lakin, we'll be most interested to know how many were aware of what he was doing and could have stopped it, but chose to remain silent.
You know who you are.