Attorney Rex Carr is appealing Madison County Circuit Judge Daniel Stack's dismissal of a counter lawsuit filed against attorney Ed Unsell who represents clients in a highly publicized civil sexual assault lawsuit.
On Sept. 8 Carr filed notice of appeal with the Fifth District Appellate Court.
Carr of East St. Louis claims his well known clients, Brad Lakin, his brother Kristopher, and the Lakin Law Firm, were victims of a $50 million extortion scheme by Unsell and his clients who accused powerful attorney Thomas Lakin of sexual assault.
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 Unsell's client.
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.
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 suit also alleged Kris Lakin sexually abused a minor.
The lawsuit was dismissed and expunged May 5. A week later the case was unsealed and made available with the defendants' names revealed. The suit was refilled in St. Clair County on June 14.
At a hearing to dismiss the suit pursuant to section 2-619 of the Code of Civil Procedure on Aug. 16, Stack said, "After reviewing the totality of the circumstances, I do not see how this case can be proven."
Carr argued that plaintiffs in the sexual assault case used a demand for settlement like a "club over the head" of Lakins.
"It was a way of demonstrating to them that we have the power to destroy the law firm and Kris and you Brad...," Carr said.
Tom Keefe who represented Unsell at the hearing argued that attorney Bill Lucco, who represents Thomas Lakin, never suggested in the period leading up to the lawsuit being filed that his clients were abusing process or attempting to extort money.
"He (Lucco) would have said it if it was true," Keefe said.
Referring to an affidavit filed by Lucco in connection to the countersuit, Keefe said, "It's significant for what it doesn't say."
Keefe said that Lucco never contradicted an affidavit filed by attorney Unsell who stated that the Lakins -- through Lucco --requested a settlement demand.
According to Unsell's affidavit, on May 4, Lucco asked him to withdraw the suit against the Lakins and asked him to expunge the case because he was fearful the press "would get wind" of the suit.
Unsell also stated that Lucco asked for a global settlement.
Before ruling, Stack said it was troubling for him to hear the allegations made against the Lakins as well as Unsell, attorneys he has known for a long time.
"No one wants to see this," he said. "No one can relish these lawsuits."
"This court cannot at this time find any reasonable means for the plaintiffs to be able to support their complaint and nothing provided by the plaintiffs at the hearing contradicted the affidavit of defendant Edward Unsell," Stack wrote in his order dismissing the suit.
"There appears to be no disputed question in fact," Stack wrote.