Two years after sentencing, Lakin investigation still under way

Ann Knef Oct. 8, 2010, 1:00am

Two years after once-powerful Madison County attorney Lowell Thomas Lakin was sentenced to six years in prison on federal drug charges, a special prosecutor investigating a related state case continues to guard his comments.

Charles Colburn, who was appointed in 2006 to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse against Lakin, said on Tuesday that he still could not comment on the case that preceded Lakin's federal indictment in 2007.

Both state and federal investigations of Lakin were launched due to allegations made in a civil lawsuit filed under seal in Madison County in 2006.

The lawsuit, which has been stayed by court order until the state moves forward or dismisses its investigation, accuses Lakin of engaging in child sexual abuse against three unnamed plaintiffs. Among other things, the suit accuses Lakin of transporting an underage male to Malibu, Calif. with the intent to engage in sexual activity.

Federal prosecutors dropped sex charges involving minors that carried a life sentence, in exchange for Lakin's guilty plea to possessing and distributing cocaine to a person under 21 and maintaining a drug-involved premises.

He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert two years ago on Oct. 8, 2008, at the federal courthouse in East St. Louis.

Lakin appeared before Gilbert in handcuffs, leg shackles and a yellow prison jumpsuit.

"This is a pretty far fall from grace," Gilbert said to Lakin at sentencing.

Lakin, 70, founded the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River, which became a renowned class action and personal injury firm. It has been renamed LakinChapman.

He is scheduled to be released from Fort Worth Federal Correctional Institution in Texas, a low security institution housing male offenders, on Nov. 30, 2013. Lakin had previously been held at the Forrest City correctional facility in eastern Arkansas.

Colburn was appointed special prosecutor after Madison County State's Attorney Bill Mudge in June 2006 asked for outside assistance because he perceived a conflict of interest if the state were to bring charges against Lakin.

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.

One of the attorneys representing the victims in the case, Ed Unsell of East Alton, has pressed for the investigation to move forward.

"It's not that difficult of a case," Unsell said earlier this year. "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.

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