Man jailed on battery charges claims he is rightful owner of Fairview Heights drug house

By Ann Maher | Jan 28, 2014


A man being held on aggravated domestic battery charges in the county jail has filed suit against St. Clair County Associate Judge Ellen Dauber and Circuit Clerk Kahala Clay claiming he is the rightful owner of an infamous Fairview Heights drug house.

Lennil Johnson claims in his suit filed Jan. 24  in federal court in East St. Louis that 20 Kassing Dr., formerly owned and occupied by convicted heroin dealer Deborah Perkins, was wrongfully conveyed to Perkins based on litigation she filed against him in 2003.

Johnson states in his lawsuit that he purchased the property from Perkins in 2003 through a contract for deed arrangement. He says that Perkins needed to sell the house to pay off a debt with people from Chicago. (Perkins traveled to Chicago for heroin purchases, according to federal prosecutors).

Johnson claims that through “corrupt legal proceedings” the property was “re-deeded” to Perkins through a St. Clair County court case (03-MR-326).

Court records show that the last judge to handle Perkins’s lawsuit against Johnson was Associate Judge Richard Aguirre. However, Johnson’s lawsuit accuses Dauber of “land piracy.”

Johnson, whose long criminal record in St. Clair County includes eight felonies, nine misdemeanors and 21 other cases, is incarcerated on domestic battery charges filed by the Illinois State Police in January 2012. He has a fitness to stand trial court appearance in St. Clair County on Feb. 11.

His 14-page, hand-written suit was filed pro se from the St. Clair County jail.

Page 5 of the complaint ends with a paragraph (9) that states Perkins’ reason for filing suit against Johnson was to prevent her eviction from the premises. Johnson states in his suit that he initiated eviction proceedings after receiving phone calls from the Fairview Heights Police Department on trash ordinance violations and drug activity at the house, although the lawsuit does not specify dates, only a time period between Jan. 1, 2003 and Jan. 15, 2014.

Paragraphs 10, 11 and 12 appear to be missing from Johnson’s complaint.

The next page (6), begins: “’Large quantities’ of heroin to prominent individuals and public figures including but not limited to St. Clair County, Illinois judges, probation officers and women who were residence/residences (sic) of middle class neighborhoods. Belleville, Swansea, Edwardsville, Fairview Heights, etc. To allow these prominent individuals and public figures to purchase heroin without fear of being detected buying and or using drugs in known drug areas, such as East St. Louis, Alorton, Washington Park, Centreville, Illinois, etc. allowing judges, probation officers, St. Clair County employees to operate above and beyond the law.”

Perkins was sentenced to 27 years in prison Dec. 5 on heroin distribution charges for running her drug operation out of 20 Kassing Dr., along with son Douglas Oliver. Oliver was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Perkins and Oliver admitted a conspiracy to distribute heroin with Sean McGilvery of Belleville. Former St. Clair County judge Michael Cook, was arrested outside the home of McGilvery - his friend and supplier - in May

McGilvery was sentenced Jan. 23 to 10 years in prison on distribution charges.

Cook awaits sentencing Feb. 26 on his guilty plea to heroin possession and weapons charges.

Another figure in the drug scandal is former St. Clair County probation officer James Fogarty, who pleaded guilty to supplying the late judge Joe Christ with cocaine. He will be sentenced Feb. 27. Christ died of cocaine intoxification on March 10 at a Cook family-owned hunting lodge in Pike County while in the company of Michael Cook.

Last month, Johnson had filed a forfeiture appeal notice in the government’s case against Perkins asserting that he is the rightful owner of the 20 Kassing Dr. property.

He also appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. As an "interested party," Johnson sought to have filing fees waived claiming poverty.

U.S. District Judge David Herndon, who on Sept. 24 entered a preliminary order of forfeiture for the property, denied Johnson's motion to file as a poor person on Jan. 4.

"[A]n appeal may not be taken in forma pauperis if the court certifies in writing that it is not taken in good faith. In this instance, the Court finds Johnson’s appeal is not taken in good faith as a reasonable person could not suppose that it has some merit,” Herndon wrote. “Defendant Perkins did not appeal her final criminal judgment and this Court has not entered a final order as to third party interests in the Real Estate. Thus, it does not appear the appellate court has jurisdiction to entertain the merits of Johnson’s claim in an appeal of defendant Perkins’ criminal judgment.”

Johnson's case against Dauber and Clay is assigned to District Judge Michael Reagan. Johnson has filed a motion for recruitment of counsel.

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