Former lawyer Tom Lakin seeks immediate appellate review of a ruling that he can’t deny committing a sex crime with a minor in 2005.
Lakin’s lawyer, Clyde Kuehn of Belleville, has asked St. Clair County associate judge Heinz Rudolf to vest Fifth District appellate judges with jurisdiction over the ruling.
Rudolf granted summary judgment against Lakin at a hearing on March 25, finding that a stipulation he signed in criminal proceedings can stand as evidence in a civil suit.
Rudolf said, “There is no ambiguity for me with regards to this. I’m not clouded at all.”
Lakin, founder of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River, recently completed a federal prison sentence on drug distribution charges.
Since 2006, he has faced a civil suit alleging sexual abuse of minors.
East Alton lawyer Ed Unsell filed the suit on behalf of an anonymous family.
In 2011, Lakin and special state prosecutor Charles Coburn agreed that Lakin would register as a sex offender.
Madison County Circuit Judge Charles Romani approved the agreement and accepted Lakin’s stipulation that he placed a minor’s penis in his mouth.
Last year, when the civil suit resumed, Unsell moved for summary judgment on his right to use the stipulation as evidence.
At the hearing before Rudolf, Kuehn said the stipulation was not a guilty plea.
“Since 1979, the state of Illinois has recognized this unique procedure by which an individual can say I want the concessions you’re willing to give me in the negotiations of this case, but I don’t want to plead guilty,” Kuehn said.
“People do plead guilty to crimes that they don’t commit because they are trying to avoid the specter of more serious penalties and threats of greater crimes for the same conduct. It happens every day.
“Even if you plead guilty in open court, you can’t be foreclosed from your right to litigate in a subsequent civil case the issues on that plea.”
Kuehn said Lakin is entitled to say, “I let myself be found guilty because I wanted to put it to rest, not that I did it.
“This finding wasn’t based upon something fought to the death, a struggle to the death. This was a find me guilty proceeding.”
Rudolf granted summary judgment and said, “When I take a look at this particular defendant, I think there was a struggle to the finish.”
“We have someone here that is very educated, that knows the system very, very well, and yet we want to say that we just acquiesced, that there was no struggle, that this was not a difficult decision?” Rudolf said.
On April 15, Kuehn moved to certify Fifth District review on the question of whether a stipulation of guilt can constitute an actual determination of guilt in a civil suit involving the same party and the same issue.
“There is no Illinois case to direct the court on the precise issue advanced in order to obtain the summary judgment,” he wrote.
He wrote that ultimate appeal of the question is inevitable.