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People v. Gasner

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 28, 1979.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

WILLIAM GASNER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ROBERT J. COLLINS, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MEJDA DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant was charged by indictment with two counts of indecent liberties with a child. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 11-4.) Following a bench trial, defendant was found guilty of contributing to the sexual delinquency of a child (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 11-5) and was sentenced to a term of 364 days. On appeal, defendant contends that: (1) evidence of prior gifts from defendant to the child and statements from which prior crimes could be inferred were improperly admitted at trial; and (2) his guilt was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt. We affirm. The following pertinent evidence was adduced at trial.

For the State

Leslie, the child, testified that defendant had been his eighth-grade homeroom teacher. In November 1976, the eighth-grade students went on a field trip. On the return trip, defendant stopped the bus and took Leslie to his apartment while the other students waited on the bus. Defendant showed Leslie his bedroom, which was blue with clouds painted on the walls and noted that when he wakes up it is like waking up in heaven. After five to 10 minutes, they left and returned to school.

In January 1977 defendant invited Leslie to his apartment because his wife was ill and he had nothing to do. Leslie asked if he could bring two friends and defendant agreed. He and his two friends went to the apartment where defendant and several of his friends, Tim, Linda and Jeff, were also present. They listened to music and smoked marijuana.

The following week defendant invited Leslie to "come over and party." He and one friend joined defendant, Linda and Jeff in drinking, smoking marijuana, and listening to music. After his visit, Leslie made weekly visits to defendant's apartment, accompanied by a friend. Defendant began writing letters and cards to Leslie which were identified at trial and delivered them either in class or at his apartment. Leslie also identified his graduation autograph book which contained a note from defendant. Defendant gave Leslie a number of gifts including a bicycle, a watch, rings, a wooden chest, a clock, a shirt and jeans, and a bag for his bicycle which he identified at trial. The letters, cards and other gifts were admitted into evidence over defendant's objection.

In May 1977 defendant began to talk about "love and stuff like that." Leslie began going to defendant's apartment twice weekly, sometimes alone. Defendant began to put his arm around him and to talk about love more often. In June he visited defendant two or three times weekly, usually by himself.

On June 26, 1977, Leslie went to defendant's apartment alone at about 7 p.m. Jeff and Linda were also there. They all smoked marijuana and drank tequila until about 9 p.m. At that time defendant led Leslie to his bedroom, closed the door, and the two disrobed. Leslie described the two acts for which defendant was indicted. Afterwards, they each showered separately. They then went to the kitchen where defendant gave him vitamins and they returned to the front room. Leslie left the apartment at about 10 p.m.

On June 29 Leslie told his mother that he did not want to live with her. He also told defendant that he would commit suicide if he were unable to be with defendant. Defendant met with Leslie's mother and the two argued. After the argument, Leslie spent the night at defendant's apartment. The next day police took Leslie to a police station.

On cross-examination Leslie stated that when he arrived at defendant's apartment on June 26, Linda was in her room while Jeff was in the front room. On June 28, he told his mother and several police officers that he and defendant had had sexual relations.

Leslie's mother testified that she first met defendant in November 1976 at an open house and again in February 1977 at the grammar school. On about June 10, 1977, she called defendant and they met at the Niagara Club at about 10 p.m. Defendant told her that he loved Leslie and that he wanted Leslie to come and live with him since he could do more for him than she could. He stated that he wanted to share his home with Leslie for the rest of his life and admitted that they had a sexual relationship. She replied that Leslie had told her about the relationship. Defendant stated that in the future men would love men and women would love women and that his wife understood this. In fact, his wife was waiting to meet a woman with whom she could have a relationship. Following the conversation Leslie's mother went home.

On June 29 at about 10 p.m. she received a phone call from defendant, and defendant and her son picked her up about 20 minutes later. Defendant told her that her son no longer cared to live with her because she was destructive and did not understand. Defendant also told her that she was no good for her son. After she called defendant a "pervert," he slapped her and pushed her into her apartment building. The argument continued until defendant said that there was no sense in talking to her and left with Leslie. Her son did not return home that night.

The following day she went to the police. She gave the police certain letters, an autograph book, and other items which she found in her son's bedroom. She identified these items at trial. Later, on July 7, she brought additional items to the police including a clock, rings, a shirt and a pair of jeans, a watch, and a bikepack. She also identified these at trial and they were admitted into evidence. She stated that she did not go to the police immediately after the conversation on June 10 because her son had told her that he would kill himself if she did anything to break up himself and defendant.

Chicago police officer Byrne testified that on June 30, 1977, after speaking with Leslie's mother, he arrested defendant at his apartment building. At the time of his arrest, defendant was accompanied by his wife and Leslie. He brought defendant to the police station and returned Leslie to his mother.

Assistant State's Attorney Kaplan testified that on July 1, 1977, at about 2 a.m. he spoke with defendant at a police station. He inquired about the relationship between defendant and Leslie. Defendant replied that they were very close, that they loved each other very much, and that the relationship had intensified in recent months. When asked how they demonstrated their love for each other, defendant replied, "You wouldn't understand" and "We just love each other very much." When Kaplan asked him to describe the actual relationship, defendant began to cry. Defendant never admitted to Kaplan that he had a physical relationship with Leslie.

For the Defense

Jeff Granger testified that on June 26, 1977, he lived with defendant, defendant's wife, Janet, and a friend, Linda. At about 6:30 p.m. on that date, they were at home when their real estate agent and the representative for the buyer came over to discuss negotiations for the sale of the apartment. The agents left between 7:30 and 8 p.m. and Granger was absent from the apartment between that time while he walked the dog. When Granger returned, Leslie was talking to defendant's wife in Granger's room. Later, he spoke with him in the kitchen. Defendant and his wife were also present, preparing dinner, and they discussed the sale of the apartment. Dinner was finished at about 10 p.m. and they took Leslie home at about 10:20 p.m.

Granger stated that during that evening defendant and Leslie never left his presence or went to defendant's bedroom. He never saw any indecent acts during that evening. He further stated that no one smoked marijuana or drank tequila that evening. The only alcohol consumed was some wine which a friend named Alice brought at about 10 p.m. to celebrate the sale of the apartment. Granger said that he had been out socially with Leslie, defendant and his wife in the past.

On cross-examination Granger testified that he had known defendant for five years and had lived with him for a period of between four and five years. Two other men also lived with them temporarily. Later, defendant married and Granger continued to live with the ...


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