Judge allows indicted planning commissioner to travel for care at Cleveland Clinic

Steve Korris Aug. 12, 2011, 1:42am

ST. LOUIS – U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry postponed a criminal trial of former St. Louis County planning commission chairman Douglas Morgan and she let him leave town, because his life depended on it.

She acted after his lawyer, Joseph Hogan of Clayton, told her that St. Luke's Hospital referred Morgan to Cleveland Clinic.

On Aug. 4, Hogan wrote that the clinic would admit Morgan on Aug. 8.

He wrote that the clinic estimated his stay at about a week.

He painted a dire picture of Morgan, who allegedly advanced a secret casino plan for himself and offspring of Madison County felons Tom Lakin and Rick Jones.

"The defendant has been hospitalized in St. Luke's Hospital and St. Luke's Rehabilitation Center on several occasions," he wrote.

"The defendant has twice been admitted to the intensive care unit of St. Luke's and been placed in a drug induced coma to stabilize his condition," he wrote.

"The medical doctors at St. Luke's are unable to control his blood pressure through normal medical procedures so they have referred him to Dr. Benico Barzilai, the section head of clinical cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic," he wrote.

Perry granted permission on Aug. 5.

On Aug. 9, Hogan moved to continue a trial Perry had set to start Aug. 22.

"Due to the defendant's current medical condition he is unable to assist counsel in his defense," Hogan wrote.

Then again, Morgan may not put up any defense.

"Defense counsel anticipates the filing of a change of plea and believes that an extension of time will assist in that regard," Hogan wrote.

On Aug. 11, Perry set trial to start Oct. 3.

She ordered Hogan to report on Morgan's health on or before Sept. 2.

Grand jurors indicted him in April on bank fraud charges, alleging he cheated bankers by pretending he hadn't blown a rich inheritance they knew he received.

Grand jurors added wire fraud charges in June, alleging he took $1.5 million from "J. T.," who thought Morgan would invest it in a North County casino.

Morgan allegedly assured J. T. and others that he secretly supported North County Development in a competition for Missouri's last gaming license.

He allegedly told J. T. that capital contributions of North County Development member Julie McDonald were all obtained from her father, Rick Jones.

Jones had stolen millions from BP, and he served time for failing to declare it as income.

According to the indictment, North County Development applied for a Missouri gaming license so it could build a casino and other attractions on 377 acres in Spanish Lake.

The application identified Kenneth Goldstein, a long time friend of Morgan, as an owner of North County Development.

It identified Brad Lakin, son of Lakin Law Firm founder Thomas Lakin, another long time friend of Morgan, as another owner.

Tom Lakin serves time on morals charges.

The application identified McDonald as third owner.

Morgan didn't disclose his interest or J. T.'s, according to the indictment.

It alleges that three other investors sank $250,000 into the deal.

North County Development withdrew its application prior to public hearings.

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