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People v. Wick

OPINION FILED JANUARY 19, 1984.

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

v.

CHARLES O. WICK, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Ogle County; the Hon. John L. Moore, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE NASH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied February 15, 1984.

After trial by jury defendant, Charles O. Wick, was convicted of aggravated arson (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 20-1.1(a)(3)), a Class X felony, and was sentenced to a six-year term of imprisonment. He appeals contending, inter alia, that the aggravated arson statute violates due process guaranteed by article I, section 2 of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 as an unreasonable exercise of the State's police power.

Defendant was charged by an amended information with committing the offense of aggravated arson in that he "by means of fire knowingly damaged a building of Meuret/Sechler Insurance Company, being a tavern located at RR, Byron, Ogle County, Illinois, when the defendant should have known that Chris Millard a fireman who was present at the scene acting in the line of duty was injured as a result of the fire." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 20-1.1(a)(3).

As relevant to this issue, evidence was offered in trial that defendant was the owner and operator of Charlie O's, a supper club and tavern located in Ogle County. On October 29, 1980, at 1:30 a.m., a fire was reported at the tavern to which the Byron Fire Department responded. Fire Lieutenants Millard and Hogan went upon the roof of the building to ventilate it, and while doing so Lieutenant Millard inhaled smoke. Although Lieutenant Hogan was wearing an air pack to protect himself from smoke, as were many of the other firemen at the scene, Lieutenant Millard did not do so as he considered it to be too heavy, creating a risk of falling through a roof. As a result of the smoke inhalation, Lieutenant Millard regurgitated and felt a burning sensation in his throat. He was treated with oxygen and salt water and had the burning sensation and a cough for one week.

Other evidence was offered that no one was on the premises when the firemen arrived and the building was locked. Defendant arrived at the scene at 2:20 a.m. and stated he had locked up and left the premises at 1:10 a.m. He signed a release form permitting investigation of the cause of the fire which disclosed there were four separate points of fire origin in the building and some evidence an accelerant had been used. Defendant denied having any knowledge of the cause of the fire.

On submission to the jury it was instructed, inter alia,

"A person commits the offense of Aggravated Arson, when by means of fire he knowingly damages, partially or totally, any building and a fireman who is present at the scene acting in the line of duty is injured as a result of the fire."

The issues presented to the jury to sustain the charge of aggravated arson were as follows:

"First: That the defendant, by means of fire, knowingly damaged, partially or totally, any building; and

Second: That Chris Millard, a fireman who was present at the scene acting in the line of duty, was injured as a result of the fire."

In Illinois, arson is regulated by section 20-1 of the Criminal Code of 1961, which provides:

"A person commits arson when, by means of fire or explosive, he knowingly:

(a) Damages any real property, or any personal property having a value of $150 or more, of ...


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