Judge takes or leaves Lakin deal in Sept.

Steve Gonzalez Aug. 19, 2008, 12:39am

Tom Lakin (left) with his attorney Scott Rosenblum.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Phil Gilbert will announce whether he will accept Tom Lakin's plea deal on Sept. 3 in Benton.

Gilbert set the hearing date Aug. 18. Gilbert took the binding plea agreement under advisement on July 31, after a very brief hearing with Lakin.

The deal calls for Lakin, who was indicted in April 2007 for cocaine possession and transporting a minor across state lines for sexual purposes, to serve a six year sentence for possession with the intent to deliver cocaine, distributing cocaine to a person under 21 and maintaining a drug-involved premises.

In return, prosecutors would drop sex charges that could carry a life sentence under the Mann Act.

Under the deal proposed, Lakin would pay $180,000 in restitution to an Illinois advocacy group, rather than a Missouri entity, which had been proposed in the earlier deal.

In March, Gilbert rejected a similar deal submitted to him partly because the restitution went to a Missouri-based group.

Gilbert also 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 third superseding indictment.

At the July 31 status conference before Gilbert, the first time Lakin's case has been on the docket since Gilbert rejected the earlier deal, Gilbert expressed concern as to how Lakin would pay for restitution if he is in fact broke as the Pre-Sentence Investigation Report (PSR) states.

Lakin's attorney, Scott Rosenblum of St. Louis, explained that two trusts that Lakin had set up would pay.

Brad Lakin, Tom Lakin's son and president of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River, is the trustee in control and would agree to pay the restitution, Rosenblum said.

Gilbert ordered the PSR in March after rejecting Lakin's deal. He also ordered that Lakin undergo a sexual offender evaluation even though Lakin would not be pleading guilty to any sex charges. The results of that evaluation have not been made public.

In March, Gilbert 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 in March.

Stephen Clark and Kevin Burke represent the government.

Gilbert has still yet to rule on a motion filed by Clark last month.

Clark filed a motion to inspect the contents of a black binder Lakin left behind in the vehicle of Lakin's acquaintance who was cooperating with the government's investigation.

Clark indicated the binder contains information about a juvenile who may be subject in Lakin's indictment.

More News