ST. LOUIS – U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry plans to bring former St. Louis County planning commission chairman Douglas Morgan to trial on criminal fraud charges despite his claim of poor health.
"There is not one doctor who has said you are so ill you can't come to court," Perry told Morgan at a hearing on Sept. 22.
"I'm not saying you don't have medical problems," she said. "You are here in a wheelchair today.
"We can accommodate your disability during the trial."
She delayed trial from Oct. 3 to Oct. 17, so he can undergo a nerve biopsy.
"I will expect a change of plea or we will go to trial," she said.
Prosecutors accuse Morgan of swindling anonymous persons who believed he invested their money in a proposed North County casino.
They claim he told them he invested in the casino but couldn't reveal his interest.
Prosecutors identify him as a long time friend of Tom Lakin, founder of the former Lakin Law Firm in Wood River.
They also identify him as a longtime friend of Ricki Lee Jones of Wood River, former owner of Triad Industries.
Lakin currently serves time in federal prison on morals charges, and Jones recently served out a sentence for evading income taxes.
Lakin's son, Brad Lakin, and Jones's daughter, Julie McDonald, developed one of the applications for the last gaming license in Missouri.
They withdrew the application before gaming officials selected a developer.
Grand jurors indicted Morgan in April, charging he cheated bankers by falsely representing that he hadn't spent all of his inheritance.
In June, grand jurors added charges relating to the casino.
Perry set trial for Aug. 22, and later pushed it back to Oct. 3.
On Sept. 2, Morgan's lawyer, Joseph Hogan of Clayton, told Perry that Morgan can't stand or sit upright for even small amounts of time without suffering or passing out.
On Sept. 12, Perry ordered Morgan to appear before her in ten days or file an affidavit from a doctor stating he can't appear.
He showed up, and Perry told Hogan she thought Morgan would change his plea.
Hogan said, "Things that need to occur haven't occurred due to his condition."
Perry asked if his doctors said he was too sick to be prosecuted.
Hogan said, "They have not said that."
Perry said that according to a pretrial report, he can walk around his house.
She said, "It seems to me he can come to court."
Prosecutor Hal Goldsmith said, "There are additional potential charges."
Perry said, "I don't want to bring in a jury if he's going to plead guilty."
She quoted from the pretrial report that he must be watched when taking medication.
Hogan said, "He would like to explain."
Perry told Morgan anything he said could be used against him.
Morgan said his nurse was upset about two pills that stuck to his shirt.
He said he passed out the day before.
He said his condition was rare and a nerve biopsy would help tell what it is.
He said, "The condition is not going to get better."