An attorney representing the plaintiff in a civil sexual abuse lawsuit argues that a denial introduced by defendant Thomas Lakin’s criminal defense attorney is “absurd.”
Thomas Q. Keefe, III of Keefe & Keefe in Belleville, co-counsel to East Alton attorney Ed Unsell in their client’s suit against Lakin, questions why Lakin attorney Ben Allen and not Lakin himself would submit an affidavit denying he sexually assaulted a minor.
“Could it be because he (Lakin) knows that filing a false affidavit is perjury, and perjury would violate the terms of his mandatory supervised release?” Keefe wrote Oct. 19 in an addendum to a motion for summary judgment against Lakin.
Keefe’s argument comes in response to an affidavit Allen filed in a seven-year-old civil case playing out in St. Clair County Circuit Court. The plaintiffs have sought summary judgment based upon a stipulated plea agreement Lakin entered into at a Madison County bench trial before former Circuit Judge Charles Romani on Oct. 25, 2011.
The Madison County trial followed Lakin’s 2008 federal conviction. Lakin pleaded guilty to cocaine possession, distribution to a person under 21, and maintaining drug involved premises.
In exchange for his plea, federal prosecutors dropped sex charges that could have carried life sentences.
The federal investigation that led to charges against Lakin was precipitated by the civil suit Unsell originally filed in Madison County in 2006.
Allen does not represent Lakin in the civil case. Lakin’s civil attorney Clyde Kuehn of Belleville attached Allen’s affidavit to the case docket on Oct. 3.
Both sides disagree about the meaning of Lakin’s plea agreement, which requires Lakin to register as a sex offender when he completes his prison sentence next month.
In the affidavit, Allen states that Lakin agreed to register as a sex offender to defeat the civil suit. He states that the agreement allows Lakin to maintain his innocence and that he "did not have to admit to anything.” He also indicated that the agreement would “ensure” no negative consequences related to the civil litigation.
“We stipulated that the state’s evidence if believed would be legally sufficient to establish the offense of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, and we allowed the court to render a finding of guilt on that basis without actually litigating any of the facts,”Allen wrote.
But Keefe argues that Lakin, through his attorney Allen, specifically stipulated at the bench trial: “[T]he state and defendant herein stipulate to the truth of the following facts: That this offense occurred during and about April 2005 to October 2005; that during this time period L. Thomas Lakin … [and] (minor boy)… was 15 years old; that L. Thomas Lakin was a family friend of (the minor); that during this time period, while at the defendant’s home, 287 Oakley, East Alton, Illinois, Madison County, the defendant performed oral sex on (the minor).”
“If Mr. Lakin stipulated to a lie in open court, he should raise his right hand and say so,” Keefe wrote. “Until he does, summary judgment is appropriate. What happens after will be up to his parole officer.”
Keefe also argues that despite what Allen’s affidavit says, Allen did not indicate that the stipulation Romani offered was poorly phrased, he did not offer any clarification and did not ask for the phrase ‘to the truth’ be stricken during the hearing. Therefore, Lakin's stipulation was not "uncertain," Keefe wrote.
“Indeed, Mr. Allen goes on to say, ‘and I do acknowledge the state can and would and will, if necessary, produce that evidence and we’re willing to accept that as the evidence before the court,’” Keefe wrote.
“What could be clearer than that?
“These truths notwithstanding, Mr. Lakin now wants to suggest that he acknowledged the truth as being the truth not because it was true, but for alternative reasons. This is absurd.”
Allen’s affidavit also states that he had arrived at a basic understanding with state appellate prosecutor Charles Colburn "several years in advance of October 24, 2011"... "about how we might mutually embrace a negotiated disposition that Tom Lakin would be willing to accept.”
Unsell said he “vehemently” denies that such an arrangement had been made between Allen and Colburn.
He said he had asked Colburn from "day one" whether there were any deals between him and Allen. He said that Colburn "steadfastly" denied any deal making every time he asked.
Unsell said the case, brought by a former Lakin employee who alleges her son was abused, has been dragged out long enough.
“I just want the judgment,” Unsell said.
He said the state's dragging out of its case worked only to the advantage of the defendant.
“It got to the point where it was patently obvious that the criminal case was weakened every second that they delayed,” Unsell said.
When the state appointed Colburn as special prosecutor, Unsell said he came up with the idea to file a motion to stay the civil case because he trusted Colburn "to do the right thing."
Unsell said he ended up subpoenaing Colburn and his boss in the civil case. He said the state's motion to quash the subpoena was denied, and within weeks Colburn announced that an agreement was reached.
He filed a motion for summary judgment in 2011, arguing that Lakin’s bench trial and registration as a sex offender constituted an admission of liability.
“The whole argument is if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, is it a duck?” Unsell asked. “Is it an admission of guilt? And if it is, then we are entitled to a ruling.”
Kuehn wrote in opposition to the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment on Oct. 2 that Lakin never pleaded guilty and should not be held liable in the civil case.
St. Clair County Associate Judge Heinz Rudolph continued oral arguments on summary judgment motions for Nov. 21 at 1:30 p.m.
Lakin will be released from a halfway house in St. Louis on Nov. 30.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 6-L-363