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People v. White





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Peoria County; the Hon. STEVEN J. COVEY, Judge, presiding.


After a jury trial the defendant, Dennis White, was found guilty of intimidation in violation of section 12-6(a)(1) of the Criminal Code of 1961. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 12-6(a)(1).) The circuit court of Peoria County sentenced him to five years of imprisonment.

The only issue on appeal is whether the defendant was proved guilty of intimidation beyond a reasonable doubt. Specifically, the defendant contends that because the credibility of the State's principal witness was impeached and her testimony concerning the offense was otherwise improbable and unworthy of belief, he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We disagree.

The incident in question took place on January 7, 1980, in the second-floor apartment of Michael Stapleton, at approximately 3 p.m. At trial the State adduced the testimony of the victim, Lucille People, Cheryl Gordon, and Officer Walter J. Jatkowski, Jr.

Lucille People testified that on January 7, 1980, she, the defendant, and Michael Stapleton were employed by the Peoria Department of Health, Rodent Control Division. After attending a morning staff meeting they were assigned to interview community members. The defendant, assigned as a supervisor, drove People and Stapleton in his car.

People first testified that they interviewed six residents between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., but on cross-examination admitted that during that same time they went to purchase some marijuana. At 11:30 a.m. the defendant and Stapleton dropped off People at a friend's house for lunch. They picked her up at 1 p.m., took her to inquire about installing a telephone, and then they proceeded to Stapleton's apartment, arriving at about 1:30 p.m. She testified that they began completing their work assignments, but on cross-examination admitted that she, the defendant, and Stapleton smoked marijuana while at the apartment.

Approximately one hour later she told the defendant that she wanted to leave Stapleton's apartment and return to work, but the defendant refused to oblige her because she allegedly owed him money which he then demanded that she repay. She told the defendant that she had no money, but that if they were to drive her to work she would buy both of them a chicken dinner. Stapleton then grabbed her and the defendant removed $106 from her shoe. People attempted to flee, but Stapleton slapped her. Stapleton gave back the $106 after People began to cry.

People testified that the defendant then demanded that she have sex with him, but she refused. The defendant then demanded that People take pictures of herself while nude, but she refused that demand also. The defendant persisted in his demands that People take nude photographs of herself, declaring that if she refused, he would tie her up and force her to take the pictures. Finally, People said she would take the pictures, but only if the defendant and Stapleton left the apartment. They allegedly left and waited outside in the hallway. People, given a Polaroid land camera and a disposable flashbar unit by the defendant, fired the flashes without taking any photographs of herself. After the defendant reentered the apartment and learned what People had done, he produced a second flashbar and ordered her to take the picture. At that time he allegedly held in his hands a baseball bat belonging to Stapleton, and with it he threatened that if People refused to take the photographs of herself nude, he would "shove" the bat into her vagina. Again People said she would take the pictures, but only if the two men waited outside the apartment. She spent the second flashbar again without taking any photographs. Stapleton, by this time disgusted, left for a drugstore. The defendant, upon reentering the apartment, again threatened to shove the baseball bat into her vagina. Then the defendant slapped her with such force that she fell to the floor. The defendant continued to threaten her during the 30-minute period which Stapleton was gone, and he also began spraying her with ignited hairspray.

People further testified that she finally convinced the defendant to return her to the Department of Health. As the defendant and People were leaving the apartment house, he told her that he forgot something in Stapleton's apartment and ran upstairs to retrieve it. People did not flee, nor did she call to a passing couple for assistance. Upon returning to work, People called the police.

On cross-examination People admitted that she smoked marijuana in Stapleton's apartment on the date in question, but denied that she tried to convince the defendant to falsify his Department of Health worksheets. She also denied telling the defendant and Stapleton that she received $70 for a "dude trick" at lunch time that day and that she could have made more money had she had more time. She then admitted that she might have said "dude trick" but such a phrase did not connote to her prostitution. People further testified that she had not previously been inside of Stapleton's apartment and that she had not previously seen the defendant socially. She admitted, however, that neither of the blows delivered by the defendant or Stapleton resulted in bruising her.

The State also introduced the testimony of Stapleton's sister, Cheryl Gordon, who testified that on the afternoon in question she saw the defendant's car parked outside Stapleton's apartment. Officer Jatkowski, testifying for the State, said that upon searching Stapleton's apartment he discovered spent flashbars adaptable to a Polaroid camera, a baseball bat belonging to Stapleton located at the bottom of the landing of the apartment house, and hairspray matching the type that was used to "spray" People with fire.

The defendant introduced several witnesses who testified that they had seen People and the defendant together socially several times prior to the date in question. One witness placed them at Stapleton's apartment approximately two months before the instant offense occurred.

Michael Stapleton then testified, stating that People told him that during her ostensible lunch break on January 7, she in fact performed a "dude trick" that had netted her $70. He assumed the phrase "dude trick" connoted prostitution. He also testified that at his apartment she tried to convince the defendant and Stapleton to falsify their worksheets for that date, saying, "you better learn how to lie." Stapleton denied striking People and testified that he never witnessed the defendant strike her. He further stated that any threats made by the defendant or himself were merely jokes. According to Stapleton, People voluntarily suggested that she take nude photographs of herself and when she failed to do so, Stapleton left the defendant and People alone in his apartment. Stapleton, as a co-defendant, was testifying in his own defense.

Finally, Stapleton testified about a tape recording made that afternoon in his apartment. The defendant apparently taped their stay at Stapleton's apartment in case People attempted to say anything to their superiors at the Department of Health about their failure to work that day. The defendant's demeanor towards People during the taped conversation became increasingly hostile. The defendant was upset with People because he placed his job in jeopardy when he dropped her off at lunch time. He was also upset that People had lied to him about how much money she had on her person. The defendant talked of placing her in a bathtub full of hot ...

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