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09/06/88 the People of the State of v. Wilma Wright

September 6, 1988





528 N.E.2d 1004, 174 Ill. App. 3d 144, 124 Ill. Dec. 113 1988.IL.1347

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Rock Island County; the Hon. John D. O'Shea, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE SCOTT delivered the opinion of the court. HEIPLE and WOMBACHER, JJ., concur.


Following a bench trial on stipulated facts, the trial court convicted the defendant, Wilma Wright, of aggravated battery and battery. The court then sentenced her to a 30-month term of probation for the aggravated battery conviction and a concurrent 12-month term for the battery conviction, both conditioned upon her serving six months in jail. The defendant's motion to modify her sentence was denied. She appeals.

At the defendant's trial, the parties stipulated to the following facts. On February 27, 1987, the defendant went to Frances Willard Elementary School to discuss her son's behavior with principal Judy Miller. During her meeting with Miller, the defendant became verbally abusive. Miller asked her to leave and return when she had calmed down. As Miller turned to go into her office, the defendant hit her on the back of the head and continued hitting her, knocking her to the floor. When teacher's aide Nancy Brown tried to help Miller stand, the defendant began striking Brown with a purse. The purse strap broke and the defendant continued hitting Brown with the strap alone.

The presentence report showed that as a juvenile the defendant had committed the offenses of delinquency, stealing, sexual misconduct and soliciting for prostitution. As an adult, she had four traffic convictions and a felony retail theft conviction. The report further showed that the defendant had acquired a general equivalency degree, had earned 27 college hours, and had graduated from a beauty school. Though she had lost one hair designer job due to her failing to become licensed, she had another awaiting her at the time of sentencing. Her four children were ages 8, 14, 18 and 22. The oldest was mentally handicapped and lived with the defendant's mother.

In entering sentence, the trial court stated that the most difficult factor was the hardship and inconvenience to the defendant's dependents. The court concluded, however, that if parents were immune from jail time simply because of children, it would be open season on teachers and principals.

The defendant filed a motion to reduce or modify her sentence pursuant to section 5-8-1(c) of the Unified Code of Corrections (the Code) (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 1005-8-1(c)). After the State moved to dismiss the motion because it had not been heard within 30 days of sentencing, the defendant amended her motion to show that it was being brought under section 5-6-4(f) of the Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 1005-6-4(f)).

At a hearing on the motions, the trial court denied the defendant's section 5 -- 8 -- 1(c) motion, but allowed her to amend it and bring it under section 5 -- 6 -- 4(f). Defense counsel then told the court that the defendant had not understood that she could offer mitigating evidence at her sentencing hearing. She had therefore failed to present witnesses who would testify to her good character and to the victim's reputation of being a racist. Defense counsel believed that the defendant's misunderstanding might have been due to his miscommunication and further that the defendant probably had not received effective assistance of counsel.

The trial court denied the defendant's motion to reduce or modify her sentence. The court noted that the victim's racial attitudes were not a factor in sentencing, given the facts of the assault.

On appeal, the defendant first argues that the sentencing court abused its discretion by conditioning her probation on a six-month jail term. She contends that the court did not adequately recognize several mitigating factors, including her good employment prospects, the hardship a jail term would entail for her dependents, her law-abiding life for the past 10 years, the provocation under which she acted, and the lack of serious harm to the victim.

A defendant's sentence will not be reversed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion by the trial court. (People v. Perruquet (1977), 68 Ill. 2d 149, 368 N.E.2d 882.) Aggravated battery is a Class 3 felony (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 12-4(e)), for which the court may sentence a defendant to not less than two years and not ...

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