Deal accepted; Lakin in federal custody

Steve Gonzalez and Ann Knef Sep. 10, 2008, 8:45am

Tom Lakin, left, and his attorney Scott Rosenblum enter the federal courthouse in East St. Louis on Wednesday.

Scott Rosenblum holds open the door for Tom Lakin as they enter the federal courthouse in East St. Louis Wednesday morning.

EAST ST. LOUIS--Attorney Tom Lakin was taken into custody Wednesday at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis, after U.S. District Court Judge J. Phil Gilbert accepted a binding plea agreement on drug charges.

Lakin, who pleaded guilty to possessing and distributing cocaine to a person under 21 and maintaining a drug-involved premises, was taken into custody at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis following a two-hour hearing.

Sentencing has been scheduled for Oct. 8. He faces 72 months in a federal prison and a fine. Lakin was also ordered to pay the cost of his incarceration and supervised release.

Lakin's attorney, Scott Rosenblum, argued that his client should be able to remain free on bond so he may seek medical care for cancer, a pulmonary illness and cardiac problems before reporting to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Rosenblum also said that Lakin's bone cancer was in remission but Lakin wanted his doctor at the Mayo Clinic to see him before his incarceration for "peace of mind."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Clark had argued against allowing Lakin to remain free, saying he had broken his bond agreement by making contact with a witness related to the case.

Lakin was indicted in April 2007 for cocaine possession and transporting a minor across state lines for sexual purposes. He pleaded guilty to drug-related charges. The sex-related charges were dropped under the plea agreement.

Clark said the government would prove that Lakin used and distributed cocaine "not occasionally...(but) monthly, weekly and sometimes daily."

He said that Lakin's East Alton residence was a place "where people would come...after bars were closed, using and sharing cocaine."

Clark also said some witnesses would testify that his residence was used because it was believed that "local police would not interfere with a powerful, well-connected attorney," he said.

Incarceration charges

Lakin was also ordered to pay the cost of his incarceration and supervised release which Gilbert estimated to be approximately $128,800.

"I'll be damned if I am going to saddle taxpayers of this country" with the costs of incarceration "given the funds you have for your health and welfare," Gilbert said.

In addition, Lakin will pay $180,000 in restitution and forfeit $325,000.

Gilbert ruled that "exceptional circumstances" related to Lakin's medical condition do not exist in the case. He said the only medical records of Lakin's he had seen were from 1994.

Gilbert said that had he not detained Lakin pending sentencing, he would have revoked his bond because of contact Lakin made with a potential witness in the case. According to the terms of his bond, Lakin was forbidden from having contact with witnesses.

"This is not a sometime deal; it's an all time deal," Gilbert said.

Bond violations

For the government, U.S. Attorney Kevin Burke had recently filed a motion asking Gilbert to revoke Lakin's bond.

Burke argued that on Aug. 3, the government received information that Lakin was in Texas in violation of the terms of his release.

In response, Burke said, the FBI conducted almost 20 witness interviews and was provided alibi evidence establishing that Lakin was not in Texas, but at Judith Crowder's Jerseyville residence for a party.

According to Burke, Crowder was a witness in the case.

In March, Gilbert rejected a similar plea deal submitted to him partly because an amount being offered by Lakin as restitution went to a Missouri-based group.

In a courtroom packed with reporters, federal agents and families of the accused and accusers, Lakin remained calm after the judge accepted the deal.

"We prepared him (Lakin) that he could be taken into custody," Rosenblum said after the hearing. "We expected it given the statute."

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