Don't let Lakin off the hook

The Madison County Record Mar. 2, 2008, 4:00am

Tom Lakin's fate shouldn't come so quickly. And his punishment shouldn't come so easy.

At least not as easy as the U.S. Government tried to make it last week, submitting a Lakin guilty plea agreement Thursday that would have required the beleaguered Wood River one-time tort king to serve just six years in prison and pay but a paltry $180,000 fine.

Even more surprising, it required that Lakin only plead guilty to his drug charges--not the child sex charges.

This means when he leaves prison he wouldn't have to be a registered sex offender. Lakin is accused of having sex with a fifteen year old boy multiple times, as well as paying the boy to have sex with women while he watched.

Such behavior would seem to define the term. Would not a man guilty of such horrors remain a threat to the community?

Consider that Gary Peel, the ex-Lakin Law Firm class action lawyer currently serving a 12 year sentence, will emerge from prison a registered sex offender. His sex crime--taking naked pictures of his 16 year old sister-in-law in 1974--pales in comparison to the charges Lakin faces.

U.S. District Court Judge Phillip Gilbert, for the time being, has rejected the plea agreement.

Gilbert took issue with the $180,000 in restitution going to a Crime Victims' Advocacy Center in St. Louis, rather than to the individual victims of Lakin's alleged sex and drug exploitation. Here's hoping he holds firm--for their sake and ours.

This might be the epitome of an ugly mess. But we're not better off if the tragedy of Lakin is quickly swept out of sight.

It's about time the people heard from the "dozens upon dozens of witnesses" who supposedly have intimate knowledge of Lakin's drug parties and sexual exploits. Then, perhaps, they will finally hold accountable the cowardly local public officials who consciously ignored their pleas.

Tom Lakin needs to be made a loud public example, if only to prevent another like him from plaguing the Metro-East all the same.

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