Lakin's arraignment postponed two weeks; set Aug. 27

Steve Gonzalez Aug. 2, 2007, 3:00pm

Tom Lakin

Tom Lakin's arraignment that had been set for Aug. 3, has been postponed until Aug. 27 in Benton.

United States Magistrate Judge Philip Frazier entered the order Aug. 1 after Lakin's attorney submitted an oral motion, without objection from the government.

Lakin was indicted on seven counts of drug and sex with a minor by a federal grand jury in East St. Louis on April 20. He pleaded not guilty and remains free on a $250,000 unsecured bond.

On July 18 another grand jury returned a superseding indictment against Lakin that charges him with an additional count of distribution of a controlled substance.

All together he is facing eight federal charges.

The new count states that Lakin, "knowingly and intentionally distributed a mixture and substance containing cocaine," a Schedule I1 Controlled Substance, to John Doe 1; all in violation of Title 2 1, United States Code, Sections 84 1 (a)(l) and 84 (b)(l)(C).

The government also filed a motion notifying the court that it does not oppose a joint motion to intervene filed by the Belleville News Democrat and St. Louis Post Dispatch.

In an effort to protect the identity and privacy of juvenile witnesses and victims in the criminal case against Lakin, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Clark wants the courtroom to be closed to the public when they testify.

The newspapers filed a motion to intervene to stop that from happening.

In his motion, Clark asks U.S. District Judge Phil Gilbert to hold off on ruling on his motion to close the courtroom "so as to allow the Government time for further assessment of the potential effects on the juvenile victim and juvenile witnesses of testifying in open court."

Clark also points out that having worked for several years in the publishing industry prior to law school, he is particularly sensitive to the need to protect First Amendment rights.

"But the undersigned is equally sensitive to the needs of the juvenile victim and juvenile witnesses in this case, and to the importance of a fair trial – one that is fair to the Defendant, the Government, and the juvenile victim and witnesses," Clark added.

Clark stated that a high-profile case such as this one usually means it will be well-attended.

"To the extent that the juveniles may be intimidated by the presence of large numbers of people in the courtroom, disallowing closure may inhibit testimony from the juveniles," Clark wrote.

He added that his motion does not seek to suppress the transcripts of the testimony.

"In addition to the publicity surrounding the instant case, it is important to consider the reputation of Defendant Lakin, expressed by several witnesses in this case, of a wealthy, influential lawyer capable of retaliating against witnesses who testify against him," Clark wrote.

He said that allegations in the pending civil case in St. Clair County allege "Lakin engaged in extreme harassing conduct against Plaintiff Mary Doe, including the filing of lawsuits against the plaintiff, purchasing a home for the plaintiff and then evicting her and her children from the home, conducting surveillance on the children at their schools, and making improper contacts with the children's teachers, and re-possessing a car that Plaintiff's minor daughter was driving, the re-possession occurring at the minor's high school."

Clark wrote, "Such factors may compound the difficulties of adolescents testifying before a crowd of people in the courtroom."

Clark also cited a case captioned Globe Newspaper v. Superior Court, 457 U.S. 596 (1982) that says courtroom closure at times is "to prevent the risk of severe psychological damage caused by having to relate the details of the crime in front of a crowd which inevitably will include voyeuristic strangers."

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