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People v. Wills

OPINION FILED MARCH 23, 1978.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,

v.

ROBERT WILLS, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Daniel J. Ryan, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MORAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant, Robert Wills, was indicted for perjury alleged to have been committed during his testimony before a Cook County grand jury investigating improprieties in the licensing practices of the Illinois Department of Insurance (Department). Following a bench trial, the defendant was convicted and sentenced to four years of probation, with the first six months to be served in a work-release program. The appellate court reversed the conviction, reasoning that either the defendant's answers were literally true or the questions posed to him were too confusing and ambiguous to serve as a basis for a perjury conviction. (44 Ill. App.3d 585.) We granted the State's petition for leave to appeal.

The defendant was employed as an insurance examiner with the Department from June 1969 until his dismissal on March 2, 1973. Shortly after his dismissal, the defendant telephoned his friend, Gordon Casper, who was head of the Department's examining unit, and asked to speak with him regarding the insurance broker's examination of William Daley. (Casper had supervised that examination, conducted in Chicago on Friday, March 16, 1973, and had taken the examination papers back to his home in Springfield for the weekend.) Casper acknowledged that Daley had taken the March 16 examination, and agreed to discuss the same with the defendant. Upon defendant's arrival at Casper's home, Casper permitted him to peruse the Daley examination, after which defendant noted that there were "too many vacancies, too many unanswered questions" on it. He asked Casper if he could fill in some answers as a favor to a State senator and Casper agreed. The defendant spent between 20 and 35 minutes doing so. Casper then returned the paper to the batch of ungraded examinations. During the week, the examinations were graded. Casper graded the Daley examination and gave it a passing score. The grade was recorded, and Daley was subsequently notified that he was eligible for an insurance broker's license.

Approximately a year later, both Casper and the defendant received subpoenas to testify before the grand jury on Wednesday, March 20, 1974. Defendant and Casper met in Springfield on the Saturday before the grand jury session. Defendant told Casper that he had again spoken to the senator and that they should "play it cool like [they] had before." Casper agreed. During their flight to Chicago, the two agreed to "stick to [their] story."

When the defendant appeared before the grand jury, he was advised of his right to remain silent and that anything he might say could be used against him in a court of law. He was also advised of his right to confer with an attorney in the anteroom. (In accordance with statute, counsel was not permitted to accompany the defendant into the session. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, par. 112-6(a).) The defendant's testimony, which is the subject of the perjury charge, proceeded as follows.

The defendant answered that he had had occasion to grade insurance examinations while he was with the Department. He acknowledged that he and two other employees had graded examinations taken on December 13, 1971. He was shown an examination written by a John Daley on that date, and, noting his own handwriting in the margins, admitted that he had graded that particular examination. Defendant then responded to a series of questions dealing with applications for examinations, testifying that he had nothing to do with applications and that applications were processed in a department other than that in which he was employed. These questions and answers followed:

"Q. Has anyone there ever offered you anything of value for grading an examination favorable to them?

A. Never.

Q. Have you ever received anything for grading an examine [sic] for someone?

A. Never. Never. Nothing, no.

Q. In your course of employment with the insurance department have you ever encountered such offers to other graders?

A. Repeat your question please?

Q. While you were working for the department of insurance did you ever become aware of any offers to others?

A. I have heard of it yes.

Q. Who? What examiner?

A. Well I have been offered myself. This was very common. Anyone that has anything to do with a license this is very common to anybody.

Q. Wait a second; you said that you were never offered anything of value?

A. Oh I am sorry I misunderstood you. I thought you said did you ever ...


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