Lakin not trying to intimidate witness, 'nothing could be farther from the truth,' says lawyer

Steve Gonzalez Jan. 18, 2008, 3:55am

Thomas Lakin claims he did not attempt to intimidate a government witness by faxing a hand-written note. And any allegation to the contrary, he says, is "baseless" and "defies all common sense and logic."

Attorney Gilbert Sison responded Wednesday to government allegations that his client violated a court order by faxing documents, including grand jury testimony, to an attorney representing a government witness.

"As to the Government's claim that Defendant violated the Court's order prohibiting contact with the Government's witnesses, it should be noted that Defendant had no direct contact whatsoever with the witness," Sison wrote Jan. 16.

A federal prosecutor indicated in a Dec. 31 court filing that Lakin, who is charged with cocaine distribution and transporting an underage male across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual activity, may have been trying to intimidate the witness by sending a fax.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Clark filed a notice with U.S. District Judge Phil Gilbert and Lakin's attorneys arguing that the government has decided not to hand over 1,000 pages of grand jury testimony to the once powerful Madison County attorney because of his actions.

According to Clark, he was preparing to send the massive amount of discovery to Lakin's attorney, Scott Rosenblum of St. Louis. But has since changed his mind.

Clark alleges that Lakin contacted the witness, who was set to be deposed Dec. 17, by directly sending a fax to the government witness through his lawyer after Lakin personally called the attorney.

Sison argues Lakin made contact through the only appropriate and legitimate means available, which was through the attorney for the witness.

"What may be unknown to the Government and the Court, however, is the fact that Defendant and the witness's attorney have had a long-standing relationship with each other," Sison wrote. "Indeed, Defendant and the witness's attorney were once former law partners."

Clark contends that if contact was to be made it should have been done by one of Lakin's lawyers.

Sison claims the only reason Lakin made contact with his former law partner was to see if the witness would be willing to meet with one of the Lakin's investigators prior to his deposition.

"The witness eventually declined to be interviewed, but the Defense was certainly within its rights to determine whether the witness was amenable to such a meeting," Sison wrote.

According to Clark, Lakin also told the attorney that the defense team would like to interview the witness in advance of the deposition and also asked the attorney if he would like a copy of the witness's grand jury testimony and statements to investigators because the government did not provide the material to the attorney or the witness.

After that conversation, Clark claims Lakin faxed the attorney 30 pages of documents which included the witness's grand jury testimony, three witness statements and four pages of handwritten notes that appeared to have been written by Lakin.

"The notes appear to contain possible lines of attack that could be used against the witness in cross examination at the deposition; however, some lines of attack would likely be inadmissible, which suggests the possibility that the notes were sent with the purpose of intimidation or embarrassment," Clark wrote on Dec. 31.

"On the other hand, the notes also include a statement that incriminates the defendant himself - i.e., Lakin claims that he received cocaine from the witness," Clark wrote. "'Met him in the summer of 2005. All the dope is downtown. Some times in [sic] would call to see what's available, because I knew he would be there till the bell rang. Yes, there were some exchanges downtown, friendld [sic] sharing from time to time, but as I remember it, he came by two or three times - with the dope. It would be when I didn't have any, or had already been downtown, and nothing was available.'"

Clark argues that Lakin "ignored" the court order when he sent the fax, and even though the contact was indirect, Lakin, as an attorney, must have known that the witness's attorney would feel compelled to share the documents with his client.

Sison argues that it makes perfect sense for Lakin to reach out to an attorney with whom he once had a prior working relationship.

"As to the Government's contention that certain documents were faxed to the witness's attorney as a means of intimidating the witness prior to his deposition, nothing could be farther from the truth," Sison wrote.

"The purpose of sending the prior written statements and testimony of the witness was to give the witness's attorney an understanding of what the Defendant's investigator wanted to discuss with the witness, if the witness was so inclined to agree to such a meeting."

Sison argues that once Lakin's former law partner declined his request, no further attempt at communication or contact with the witness's attorney was attempted.

"Regarding the Government's claim that the alleged personal notes of Defendant was meant to intimidate, harass or embarrass the witness, the allegation is nonsensical on its face," Sison wrote.

Sison argues that since the government thinks the handwritten notes incriminate Lakin, it would serve no logical purpose for Lakin to disclose that information to others.

"Surely, the Government would not readily contend that the Defendant was purposely willing to risk incriminating himself solely for the purpose of intimidating, harassing or embarrassing another witness," Sison wrote.

Clark has indicated Lakin's attorneys must come to his office to review the discovery, and that the physical documents will not be released nor made available for copying.

In May, Gilbert informed Lakin that witness harassment would not be tolerated after Clark informed the judge that he had evidence that one of Lakin's investigators engaged in harassing and intimidating conduct toward at least one of the government's potential witnesses.

Lakin's trial is set to begin March 17.

He was indicted in April 2007 by a federal grand jury in East St. Louis. Lakin was charged with eight counts involving cocaine distribution and transporting an underage male across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual activity.

On Nov. 14, a superseding indictment was returned against Lakin which increased the total number of charges against Lakin from eight to 18.

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