BENTON, Ill. (CN) – The legal troubles for Tom Lakin, a St. Louis-area personal injury lawyer and political powerhouse, could end Monday if a federal judge accepts a plea deal where he would serve six years in prison on drug charges while allegations of having sex with minors would be dropped.
Under the federal agreement, Lakin would serve six years in prison and pay $525,000 in fines, forfeitures and restitution for drug charges; charges involving sex with minors would be dropped.
U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert rejected the agreement on Thursday, but prosecutors and Lakin’s attorneys believe they can have an acceptable agreement by Monday.
Gilbert said he had several concerns, including being asked to sign a deal in which both sides determined the punishment without his input. The judge requested more information, including a pre-sentence report, and stated that a portion of Lakin’s restitution payment should go to an Illinois group or charity.
Gilbert also was concerned about the U.S. Attorney’s signatures on the Lakin indictments, which were signed by Randy Massey instead of A. Courtney Cox, the U.S. Attorney appointed last year.
The Justice Department claims it has the authority to make Cox defer to Massey on criminal matters until Cox’s background check is completed, but the judge said he cannot find legal support for that.
Gilbert has been critical of the U.S. Attorney’s office in the past and has said prosecutors engaged in misconduct and bad faith in negotiating settlements. In October, the 7th Court of Appeals ordered Gilbert to proceed in a drug case after he refused to accept the plea agreement.
Lakin, 67, could have faced 20 years in prison on two charges and 40 years in another. Lakin had been one of the pre-eminent personal injury and class action attorneys in Madison County and became a major player in politics. Lakin, his son Brad, and the Lakin Law Firm have given $700,000 to state and local Democratic candidates and $250,000 to federal campaigns.
The plea would close another embarrassing legal chapter involving the Lakin Law Firm. Gary Peel, a former Lakin attorney, is serving 12 years in prison for attempting to blackmail his former wife with nude pictures of her sister, taken decades ago when the sister was a teen-ager.
The Lakins and the Lakin Law Firm have been sued for similar drug and sex misconduct allegations in a civil suit in Madison County; last week the same plaintiffs sued the Lakins again, alleging malicious prosecution, after the Lakins filed a countersuit against them, alleging an extortion attempt.
The original suit has been stayed until Tom Lakin’s criminal charges are resolved.