Settlement hearing set in Fairview Heights drug house forfeiture case

By Ann Maher | Feb 12, 2014

20 Kassing Dr. in Fairview Heights

Forfeiture proceedings involving a known Fairview Heights drug house could be settled following a hearing next month.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams has ordered parties with an interest in the home formally owned by convicted heroin dealer Deborah Perkins to appear before him on March 18.

Williams entered the order Tuesday saying the hearing will permit an informal discussion as to the property value and possible settlement agreements.

But a man incarcerated in St. Clair County jail who asserts that he is the rightful owner will not be among those attending the conference.

U.S. District Judge David Herndon dashed any hope Lennil Johnson may have had in the property by denying his “interested party” claim on Feb. 10 as “untimely, frivolous, false and fraudulent.”

Johnson, who has been jailed since January 2012 on domestic battery charges, had sought to intervene in the federal government’s forfeiture case arguing that a St. Clair County judge improperly re-deeded the house that he owned to Perkins in 2006.

He also filed a pro se lawsuit in federal court in January against Associate Judge Ellen Dauber and Circuit Clerk Kahala Clay saying that he lost his house to Perkins due to “corrupt” proceedings.

In response to Johnson, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Hudson asked the Court on Feb. 6 to deny Johnson’s claims and sanction him for making continued “false and malicious claims.”

Hudson called Johnson’s suit against Dauber and Clay “the latest of several filings in which Johnson disparages the reputation of every person and entity involved in St. Clair County, Illinois.”

She wrote that Johnson “has known for the past seven and one half years that he had no interest in this property. Despite his litigation experience and willingness to sue police departments, villages, and judges, Johnson filed no action that would actually cause the property to be titled in his name."

Belleville attorney Thomas LeChien asserts that he is the mortgage holder for 20 Kassing Dr., which he states was recorded on July 25, 2006. He indicated in court papers filed in June that there was a $4,132.52 balance due on the mortgage.

In response to Johnson’s claims, LeChien on Feb. 10 adopted substantially the same argument that Hudson submitted.

LeChien has asked that as holder of the mortgage, he be given first priority lien when the property is settled.

Herndon noted in his order that Johnson has had three or more prisoner actions dismissed in the Southern District of Illinois on the grounds that they were frivolous.

“He is to take nothing from this action,” Herndon wrote.

He also wrote that default judgment will be entered against Johnson at the end of the case.

“Finally, Johnson must show cause by March 10, 2014, as to why monetary sanctions should not be imposed against him.”

Hudson has asked that Johnson be sanctioned $5,000.

In the meantime, a fitness to stand trial hearing on Johnson’s domestic battery charge had been on the Feb. 11 docket of St. Clair County Associate Judge Zina Cruse, but was continued to March 14.

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