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09/28/87 the People of the State of v. James C. Goebel

September 28, 1987





514 N.E.2d 60, 161 Ill. App. 3d 113, 112 Ill. Dec. 664 1987.IL.1447

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. Richard A. Lucas, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE HOPF delivered the opinion of the court. NASH and DUNN, JJ., concur.


Defendant, James Goebel, appeals from convictions in two cases which have been consolidated on appeal. In the first case (No. 85 CF 546), defendant was indicted for two counts of criminal sexual abuse (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, pars. 12-15(a)(1), (b)(1)), one count of unlawful restraint (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 10-3(a)), and two counts of battery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, pars. 12-3(a)(1), (a)(2)). A jury found him guilty of one count of criminal sexual abuse and one count of battery. In the other case (No. 85 CF 505) defendant was charged by indictment with aggravated criminal sexual abuse (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 12-16(c)(1)) and found guilty following a bench trial. At a consolidated sentencing hearing defendant was sentenced to a six-year prison term in No. 85 CF 505, and a nine-month prison term in No. 85 CF 546, with the sentences to run concurrently. Defendant contends that the admission of a corroborative complaint constituted reversible error in both cases and that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in either case.

The testimony in No. 85 CF 546 revealed that defendant was engaged as a substitute literature teacher by Waukegan East High School during the month of February 1985. Complainant was a 14-year-old female ninth grader in the class taught by defendant. According to complainant's direct testimony, one day as she was leaving the classroom defendant suggested that they do something together sometime. She declined. The next day defendant asked her, within earshot of other students, if she had a boyfriend and how many. After class she asked defendant not to say such things to her. On the third day complainant was still completing her work when the bell rang for the change of classes. The other students left the room. Complainant told her friend, Judy, not to wait for her so Judy would not be late for her next class. Judy left and closed the classroom door behind her. When complainant started to put her workbook into a cabinet near defendant's desk, defendant came up behind her and began to rub her shoulders. She tried to push his hands away. As complainant reached up to place her books on the shelf, defendant reached around, underneath her arms, and squeezed her breasts. Complainant testified that she told defendant to stop, pushed him away, and threatened to inform on him. He, in turn, threatened to harm complainant's little sister. Complainant returned to her desk and sat down to get her books from beneath the desk. Defendant grabbed her leg above the knee. As complainant got up and started to flee the room defendant grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her on the neck. Once again complainant pushed him away and ran out of the classroom. Complainant revealed the incident to her school counselor, Rita Melius, sometime the following April after she found out defendant was in jail.

On cross-examination complainant admitted that she never told her friend, Judy, or her family, about the incident with defendant and that she continued to go to literature class even though defendant was still teaching. She also indicated that she did not immediately bolt from the room when defendant first touched her and that she did not scream for help. However, she did insist that she told defendant to stop in a "pretty loud" voice and that she broke away from him and ran out of the room when he grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her neck.

Defense counsel confronted complainant with apparently inconsistent statements regarding the incident that she had given to an investigator for defendant prior to trial. Most notably, when the investigator had asked if defendant had brushed her chest with the back of his hand, complainant responded affirmatively. She had given a negative reply to the further question of whether defendant touched her with the front of his hand. On redirect examination complainant indicated that she considered the palm to be the back of her hand and the side opposite the palm to be the front of her hand. Complainant also testified on redirect that she had not told anyone about the incident before she told her counselor because she was afraid for her sister.

Testimony offered in defendant's case indicated that during the five-minute period between classes the hallway is crowded with students walking back and forth and that the upper one-third of the door of the room where defendant was teaching was glass. The court reporter who had been present during the interview of complainant by defendant's investigator testified that when complainant said defendant brushed her with the back of his hand, she had physically indicated that defendant used the knuckle side of his hand. Defendant denied complainant's allegations.

The jury found the defendant guilty of one count of battery and one count of criminal sexual abuse. The State then decided to try defendant in No. 85 CF 505 before proceeding to sentencing.

The complainant in No. 85 CF 505 was a nine-year-old, third-grade girl. Defendant had been a substitute teacher in her science class on April 12, 1985. The class was using straws and straight pins to make certain shapes during that particular class. Complainant testified that defendant complimented her on the earrings she was wearing. Later, complainant went to the supply table for more straws and pins. When she walked back down the aisle between the worktables to her seat, defendant was walking toward her. As they passed in the aisle defendant extended his arm and brushed the palm of his hand against her breasts. Nothing was said and defendant continued down the aisle while complainant returned to her seat. Complainant demonstrated the touching with boy and girl dolls and also showed defendant's arm movement with her own arm. Finally, complainant indicated that she told Tracy Raasch about the incident. Ms. Raasch, a victim advocate for the Waukegan police department, had given a presentation on child sexual abuse prevention to complainant's class.

On cross-examination defense counsel focused on differences between complainant's trial testimony and information she had previously given to the police as reflected in the police report. Complainant was also questioned regarding the presentation given by Tracy Raasch and indicated that Raasch had talked to the students about "Stranger Danger" and explained that if someone touched them they should tell their parents. In response to defense counsel's questioning, complainant said that Raasch had mentioned that other kids had told about defendant touching them and that if they, themselves, had been touched they could tell her about it privately. Subsequently, complainant met with Raasch in the hall and told her about the incident with defendant.

Tracy Raasch testified that she had given a presentation at complainant's school on April 17 and 18, 1985, in which she explained that the touching of a child's private parts by another person is a bad touch. During the presentation she displayed a poster depicting children in bathing suits and described the areas covered by the swimsuits as private parts. Raasch indicated that she never mentioned defendant by name during the presentation but that his name could have been brought up by the children., Defendant denied complainant's allegations and noted that the aisle where the incident allegedly occurred was only two to three feet wide.

The court found defendant guilty of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. Defendant's post-trial motions were denied. Following a consolidated sentencing hearing, defendant was sentenced to nine months in prison in No. 85 CF 546 and six years in prison in No. 85 CF 505. Defendant has appealed both convictions.

Defendant contends that reversible error occurred in No. 85 CF 546 when the testimony of Rita Melius, the complainant's high school counselor, was admitted into evidence. Melius testified that complainant came to her office and reported the incident with defendant approximately two months after it occurred. Defendant characterizes this testimony as irrelevant and inadmissible hearsay. Upon review of the ...

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