Assault victims waiting on state to move case against Lakin

Ann Knef Apr. 1, 2010, 10:37am


Nearly four years after victims of alleged child sexual abuse brought a lawsuit against Thomas Lakin, they are still waiting for their claims to be decided.

Their 2006 lawsuit accuses Lakin of engaging in child sexual abuse against three unnamed plaintiffs. The case has been on hold while a special prosecutor investigates Lakin on similar allegations in a separate case.

Charles Colburn, one of five special prosecutors from the Illinois Attorney Appellate Prosecutor's Agency, has said in several interviews that the case is ongoing.

In March, Colburn said that he had been involved in a number of emergencies which required his immediate attention. In February, he said he was still going through evidence in the case.

He was unavailable for comment on Thursday.

Colburn also has said he did not want to give a set date as to when the state would file or drop its case against Lakin.

East Alton attorney Ed Unsell, who represents the plaintiffs in the suit against Lakin, said recently that his clients have not been interviewed by the special prosecutor since 2008. The victims' lawsuit is stayed by court order until the state moves forward or dismisses its investigation.

Swansea attorney Thomas Keefe, Jr. is co-plaintiffs' attorney. He said in a statement that he has "enormous respect" for the appellate prosecutor's office.

"(I) have neither the right nor the responsibility to comment on the status of their investigation," Keefe said.

"On the other hand, I do have the right and the responsibility to represent my clients who are, for all intents and purposes, being denied their day in court on the civil action," he said.

The case was originally filed under seal in Madison County on April 21, 2006. After the court was challenged to unseal the case, the subject matter set off other court battles and a federal investigation. Lakin was indicted in April 2007.

In exchange for Lakin's guilty plea to possessing and distributing cocaine to a person under 21 and maintaining a drug-involved premises, federal prosecutors dropped sex charges involving minors that carried a sentence of life in prison. He was sentenced to six years in federal prison in October 2008 after pleading guilty to the drug charges.

Keefe said his clients are entitled to have a jury decide their case.

"Regardless of whether Mr. Lakin has any assets, or whether my clients collect any damages, I feel they are at least entitled to have a jury vindicate them," he said.

Colburn was appointed special prosecutor in June 2006, after Madison County State's Attorney Bill Mudge asked for outside assistance because he perceived a conflict of interest if the state were to bring charges against Lakin, founder of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River. The firm has since been renamed LakinChapman.

Mudge had indicated that his former law firm had represented Lakin in the past. Mudge is running for circuit judge and faces no opposition in the November general election.

"It's not that difficult of a case," Unsell said in February. "He (Lakin) either sexually abused a 15 year old boy or he did not."

Colburn has said that there is no statute of limitations concern because of the age of an alleged victim in the investigation.

Lakin is serving his sentence at FCI Forrest City, a low security facility for male offenders in eastern Arkansas. He is scheduled to be released Nov. 30, 2013.

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