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Widow’s emotional outbursts in court lead to judge again setting alleged scammer free

For the second time in four months, Wilmette widow Marietta Egen had a chance to face in court the man she said stole her heart and her money. And again her emotions got the best of her, spurring a judge to set Donald Lukens free.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Chambers called Egen’s testimony “jumbled,” and abruptly ended the Jan. 27 bench trial of Lukens, 64, of Chicago. Authorities accused Lukens of stealing $225,000 from Egen, and charged him with felony theft and four counts of forgery.

“People are entitled to their day in court, but this goes beyond the pale,” Chambers said during the criminal trial at the Skokie courthouse.

“No more outbursts, no more anything,” Chambers said, declaring Lukens not guilty.

Authorities say Egen met Lukens on a dating website in 2006, and that he allegedly used her money to create a lavish lifestyle for himself that included trips to Las Vegas, and rent on his pricy downtown Chicago apartment. Authorities say he failed to invest the money as the two had agreed.

In October, Chambers had declared a mistrial after Egen blurted from the stand that Lukens beat and choked her in 2006 when she asked for her money back. Lukens has never been charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend, and Chambers had barred testimony about Egen’s allegations.

During the new trial on Friday, Egen appeared more composed as she took the witness stand, saying that she loved Lukens and agreed to give him $225,000 to invest for her.

“I just totally believed him,” she testified. “I trusted him.”

But 30 minutes into cross examination by Chicago defense attorney Damon Cheronis, Egen appeared to lose her composure. She repeatedly called Lukens a “scam artist” who had ripped her off.

Cheronis said Egen’s allegations had always been more about love lost than money. At one point Cheronis stopped his cross examination of the widow to tell Chambers that she had mouthed an obscenity at Lukens as he sat at the defense table.

The last straw for the judge appeared to be when Cheronis and Egen sparred over emails Egen had sent Lukens regarding the nature of their relationship, and the money.

“You’re trying to be a defense attorney and get me,” Egen blurted. “I was going insane because I knew I was being scammed.”

Chambers stopped the trial after that and declared Lukens not guilty, saying that there was no way that Lukens could be convicted based on the testimony.

“With all due respect, you’re done, as is this case,” Chambers told Egen.

Outside the courthouse, Egen called the judge’s decision “a massive injustice.”

“I’m sick to my stomach,” she said. “I’m a very loving emotional person.

“I was probably a little emotional on the stand,” she added. “That doesn’t mean he should be found not guilty.”



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