Former Morgan County State's Attorney Charles Coburn has been named special prosecutor to handle a potential criminal sexual assault case against powerful attorney L. Thomas Lakin.

Coburn, a Republican, is one of five special prosecutors from the Illinois Attorney Appellate Prosecutor's Agency.

"I want to be clear, there are no charges right now," said Pat Delfino, assistant director for the appellate prosecutor's office. Delfino said he made the appointment.

Lakin could potentially face criminal sexual assault charges. He is the subject of a civil sexual assault complaint filed in St. Clair County alleging he had sex with an underage male.

On Monday, Madison County State's Attorney Bill Mudge asked for outside assistance from the agency's Special Prosecution Unit because he perceived a conflict of interest if charges were to be brought against Thomas Lakin, the founder of the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River. Mudge's former law firm has represented Lakin in the past.

In a press release, Mudge stated he requested a meeting with the U.S. Attorney's Office "due to his concerns about the public's perception of the status of the investigation."

The U.S. Attorney's Office is currently presenting evidence of allegations against Lakin to a federal grand jury.

Mudge said he had met with officials from the U.S. Attorney's Office June 8. He also has been in contact with the Illinois State Police.

"The following afternoon, the U.S. Attorney's Office provided Mudge with pertinent information concerning the allegations against Lakin and others that covered a lengthy time period," the release stated.

Other special prosecutors from the Illinois Attorney Appellate Prosecutor's Agency are Charles R. Zalar, former State's Attorney of Grundy County -- the unit's administrator-- and former state's attorneys Edwin Parkinson (Morgan County), Michael Vujovich (Assistant State's Attorney - Sangamon County) and David Rands (Richland County), complete the list of special prosecutors.

If a conflict of interest arises in a state's attorneys office, and the office wants an independent, detached review and prosecution by an outsider, or if special assistance is needed due to the complexity of a case, the Illinois Attorney Appellate Prosecutor's Agency can intervene.

According to the agency's website, the special prosecutor's unit has been active in downstate Illinois, where personnel and financial resources are more limited than in the more populous counties.

Trial assistance has been provided in numerous murder cases, cases dealing with official misconduct of public officials, as well as numerous other criminal and civil matters when the State's Attorney was unable to prosecute. During fiscal year 2005, the unit provided assistance to state's attorneys in 545 cases in 57 counties.

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