Lakins claim extortion in suit against accusers

By Steve Gonzalez | May 18, 2006

Brad Lakin

Legendary plaintiff's attorney Rex Carr of East St. Louis claims his well known clients were victims of a $50 million extortion scheme, according to a civil lawsuit filed in Madison County Circuit Court May 17.

Representing Bradley Lakin, the Lakin Law Firm and Kristopher Lakin, Carr is seeking in excess of $10 million from Sandra Zeller, Travis Zeller, Darla Evans, Steve Middelton and attorney Ed Unsell.

The defendants include the previously undisclosed names of plaintiffs who filed a civil sexual assault lawsuit against Thomas Lakin, founder of the Lakin Law Firm. The lawsuit, filed April 21 under seal and by fictitiously named plaintiffs and defendants, alleged that Thomas Lakin, among other things, had sex with a 15-year-old boy and that Bradley and Kristopher Lakin, as well as the firm, covered it up.

The lawsuit was dismissed and expunged May 5. A week later the case was unsealed and made available with the defendants' names revealed.

According to the Lakins' complaint, the defendants began a conspiracy sometime in 2005 to maliciously prosecute a civil action containing multiple counts against them in order to extort large sums of money from them.

The suit claims that on April 21, the defendants filed a case without probable cause and then sealed the case without legal justification.

According to the suit filed by the Lakins, the suit that the defendants' filed had allegations that the Lakin Law Firm spoiled evidence to protect their reputation, that Kristopher Lakin had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor, and that the law firm filed frivolous suits against Zeller.

"The charges made by these conspirator defendants' where wholly and completely false and maliciously stated," the suit states.

The Lakins claim that the defendants intended to force them to pay large sums of money to them so that they could avoid the publicity that would result from the case and in return promised to keep the case under seal.

According to the suit, when the Lakins refused to pay money, the case was unsealed and the malicious charges were made public.

"By reason of the malicious prosecution, plaintiffs have lost, and will in the future lose large sums of money in income and profit from the practice of law and their respective occupations," the complaint alleges.

The Lakins also claim that the defendants abused process by having summons issued against them for an improper service.

"...the issuance of process was done under seal without justification or reason except as an attempt to extort large sums of money from the plaintiffs," the complaint alleges.

The Lakins claimed that the defendants also abused the court procedures by withdrawing the suit on the pretext that they wanted to protect the minors and caused the suit to be expunged from the records of the court because the defendants knew that it should never have been sealed at the time of filing.

The Lakins also claim that on May 11, the defendants demanded a payment of $50 million by May 22, or the case would be filed again, this time not under seal.

L. Thomas Lakin is not a plaintiff in the case filed by Carr. The suit does not refute allegations made against Thomas Lakin in the defendants' April 21 suit.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian.

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