Hearing set Dec. 5 in civil suit against Tom Lakin

By Steve Korris | Dec 2, 2011


BELLEVILLE – St. Clair County Associate Judge Andrew Gleeson must decide whether to resume proceedings in a civil suit accusing Lakin Law Firm founder Tom Lakin of sexual abuse.

As of Dec. 2, Gleeson planned a Dec. 5 hearing on a motion to lift a stay that has frozen the case for four years.

East Alton attorney Ed Unsell moved to lift it on Sept. 1, on behalf of clients John Doe, Jane Doe, Joseph Doe and Mary Doe.

Former Associate Judge James Radcliffe stayed the case in 2007, to avoid a conflict between Unsell's suit and a criminal investigation of Tom Lakin.

The conflict apparently ended in October, when Lakin admitted in Madison County criminal court that he committed sexual abuse on a 15 year old boy.

Lakin didn't plead guilty, but he stipulated that he committed the crime.

He agreed to register as a sex offender upon release from federal prison, where he serves time for cocaine distribution.

Unsell filed the civil suit in 2006, against Tom Lakin, his sons Brad Lakin and Kristopher Lakin, and Lakin Law Firm.

In addition to abuse, Unsell alleged harassment and conspiracy.

Former Chief Judge Jan Fiss assigned (now retired) Circuit Judge Michael O'Malley, who recused himself.

Fiss then assigned Radcliffe, who also has since retired.

Tom Lakin's lawyer, Clyde Kuehn, moved to stay the case.

"The defendant's constitutional right against self incrimination outweighs the value of resolving the present civil action," Kuehn wrote.

Radcliffe allowed the motion.

In 2008, Radcliffe retired and Chief Judge John Baricevic assigned Circuit Judge Michael Cook.

Years passed, and Unsell decided to find out what happened to the state investigation.

In his motion to lift the stay, he wrote, "The state of Illinois has exhibited absolutely no indication, other than superfluous verbiage, of their intention to prosecute Lowell Thomas Lakin."

On Oct. 6, he issued subpoenas for testimony of Illinois appellate prosecutors Charles Colburn and Patrick Delfino.

They had taken the case after former state's attorney Bill Mudge recused himself.

The subpoenas produced a remarkable effect.

On Oct. 24, Colburn announced a plea agreement.

Lakin returned to Edwardsville, in custody, for a hearing before Circuit Judge Charles Romani on Oct. 25.

Romani said evidence was sufficient to find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Romani identified the victim as Tyler Zeller, now an adult, and son of former Lakin employee Sandra Zeller.

In the meantime, in St. Clair County, Judge Cook had recused himself from the civil suit and Baricevic had assigned Gleeson.

As Unsell prepared for the hearing, he said in an interview that he no longer intended to call Colburn and Delfino to testify.

He said Lakin's stipulation rendered their testimony moot.

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