Judge agrees to separate criminal trials for Lakin

Steve Gonzalez Nov. 1, 2007, 4:00pm


U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert has granted Tom Lakin's request for two separate trials, one over drug charges and one over sex charges.

Lakin filed a motion in July arguing that joinder of the criminal charges is improper under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 8 and 14.

He asked that the charges not be tried together because of their different natures.

Lakin was indicted in April by a federal grand jury in East St. Louis. He has been charged with eight counts involving cocaine distribution and transporting an underage male across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual activity.

Count seven, an alleged violation of the Mann Act, involves a sex offense where the other counts are drug offenses, Lakin argued.

"Indeed, there is no allegation in the indictment linking the Mann Act charge to the drug charges," Gilbert wrote in his four-page order on Oct. 31.

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 8 allows joinder of multiple offenses in a single trial if they are of similar character, based on the same act or transaction or is connected with or constitute parts of a common scheme or plan.

Rule 14 provides that a court may sever offenses if a defendant or the government is prejudiced by joinder.

Lakin's attorney, Scott Rosenblum of St. Louis, argued that if the sex crimes with a minor are tried at the same time as drug charges, the evidence would be highly prejudicial and would have absolutely no bearing on whether Lakin distributed illicit drugs to various individuals or used his residence for those purposes.

Prosecuting U.S. Attorney Stephen Clark argued that all counts in Lakin's case are "connected with or constitute parts of a common scheme or plan."

Clark also argued that the evidence will show Lakin's drug activities are inextricably intertwined with the charged sex crimes in that Lakin allegedly distributed drugs to "Jane Does" to induce them to have sex with a minor identified as John Doe 2, a boy with whom Lakin allegedly engaged in oral sex and whom he allegedly transported across state lines in the hopes of having illegal sexual activity while Lakin watched and masturbated.

Clark has submitted transcripts of videotaped witness interviews in support of the government's position that the counts are part of a common scheme or plan.

"The Court is compelled to agree with Lakin," Gilbert wrote.

"The vast majority of case law in this circuit supports the rule that whether offenses can be properly joined under Rule 8 is determined solely by what is said in the indictment, not the overlap of evidence that would be used to prove each charge at trial," Gilbert added.

Gilbert also added, "In this case, there is simply no allegation on the face of the indictment showing that the Mann Act charge and the drug charges are connected to each other or constitute part of a common scheme or plan."

He noted that his decision contrasts with the main purpose of joinder rules which is to promote judicial economy and to avoid costly duplicate trials.

Gilbert also noted that if he were to allow the charges to be tried together that the "errors would likely be harmless" but based on his review he believes that significant evidence to prove the drug charges would also be admissible in a trial of the Mann Act charge, and that evidence relating to the Mann Act charge would be admissible in a trial of the drug charges.

"But while harmless error may provide a rationale for affirming a case where claims are misjoined it should not justify a court's misapplication of the law in advance of trial," Gilbert wrote.

He stated he will address the scheduling of the separate trials at the final pretrial conference, currently scheduled for Dec. 14.

Lakin had been scheduled for trial is mid-January.

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