New superseding indictment against Lakin is only technicality

Steve Gonzalez Mar. 24, 2008, 2:00am

Tom Lakin (left) leaving the federal courthouse in Benton on Feb. 28, with his lawyer Scott Rosenblum.

A federal grand jury in East St. Louis returned a third superseding indictment against Tom Lakin. But, the only difference between the new indictment handed down Thursday and the preceeding one is the name of the person who signed it.

Last month during hearings in which Lakin attempted to plead guilty to drug charges in exchange for sex charges to be dropped, U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert questioned the validity of the second superseding indictment because it was signed by Randy Massey, whose appointment as interim U.S. Attorney had expired at the time the indictment was signed.

He said it should have been signed by the new U.S. Attorney, A. Courtney Cox, who was asked by the Justice Department to recuse himself from all criminal matters until the FBI conducted a criminal background check first.

Gilbert said the law calls for a government lawyer to sign indictments but questioned which lawyer could actually do it.

Cox passed his background check in February and since has signed all indictments that his office has secured, including Lakin's.

Gilbert has rejected Lakin's change of plea for the time being and has asked him to take a sexual offender evaluation even though Lakin would not be pleading guilty to any sex charges.

Gilbert also expressed concern that the recipient of Lakin's $180,000 restitution would be a St. Louis victim's advocacy center rather than anything connected to the victims or the state of Illinois.

Both sides assured Gilbert that they could correct that issue before he is asked to sign off on the agreement.

Gilbert also said he would not agree to the binding plea agreement, the first he has been asked to accept in 15 years on the bench, until Lakin's Presentence Investigation Report (PSR) was complete.

PSR's usually take about three months to complete, however Gilbert ordered it to be expedited so that the case could keep moving.

If Gilbert eventually accepts the plea deal, Lakin will to plead guilty to possession with the intent to deliver cocaine, distributing cocaine to a person under 21 and maintaining a drug-involved premises.

Gilbert also noted that a six-year prison sentence is a "departure" from a normal government recommendation in similar circumstances, speculating that Lakin could be helping the government in other cases.

"This court is not privy to the facts surrounding the negotiated plea agreement, nor can it be, but it does raise a concern with the court whether to accept and bind itself to this agreement," Gilbert said.

Lakin is represented by Scott Rosenblum of St. Louis.

Stephen Clark and Kevin Burke represent the government.

Lakin will have to appear at the U.S. Courthouse in Benton before U.S. Magistrate Judge Phillip Frazier at 11:30 a.m. on April 4, to plead to the charges in the indictment.

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