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09/13/88 the People of the State of v. Robert W. Hanks

September 13, 1988

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

ROBERT W. HANKS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FOURTH DISTRICT

528 N.E.2d 1044, 174 Ill. App. 3d 555, 124 Ill. Dec. 153 1988.IL.1370

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Macon County; the Hon. Rodney A. Scott, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the opinion of the court. SPITZ, J., concurs. JUSTICE LUND, Concurring in part and Dissenting in part.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE KNECHT

The following questions are presented on appeal: (1) whether the firemen affected by defendant's act were injured to the extent required by the aggravated arson statute; (2) whether defendant was denied a fair trial because a plea-related Discussion was introduced into evidence; and (3) whether the conviction on two counts of aggravated arson arising out of a single act may stand.

On March 18, 1987, the State charged defendant with two counts of aggravated arson alleging that on February 10, 1987, he knowingly caused a grain elevator to be destroyed by fire and two fire fighters were injured as a result.

The record reveals defendant was a volunteer fire fighter for the town of Harristown, Illinois. At trial, Craig Rohman testified he and defendant were together from around 8 p.m. February 10, 1987, until 2 a.m. February 11, 1987. Defendant complained to Rohman there had not been enough fire calls lately. Defendant suggested they either burn an abandoned house in town or the grain elevator.

Rohman said he and defendant drove around town for some time before defendant parked his car in a church parking lot across the street from the grain elevator. Rohman testified defendant "said he was going to burn it." Defendant then got out of the car and walked toward the elevator. Defendant was gone about 45 minutes. When he returned, Rohman testified he asked defendant if he did it and defendant laughed and said "[Look]."

The pair then left the parking lot and drove in the direction of defendant's apartment. According to Rohman, defendant said: "I think we better head on to the fire department because I think we're going to have a fire call." Soon after that statement, defendant's pager sounded and they proceeded to the Harristown fire station. When defendant returned from fighting the fire, Rohman testified he again asked defendant "if he did it," and defendant "shook his head 'yes,' and he said he did."

Brian Russell and John Snow testified they helped extinguish the elevator fire on February 11, 1987. Russell, a volunteer fire fighter, indicated he was injured at the scene of the fire when he tripped over a hose and landed on his hand. Russell said he had an air mask on until the oxygen ran out. When the wind shifted the fire fighter was overcome by smoke and became ill. Russell testified he coughed profusely and spit mucous. His chest was tight and he could not stand. Russell was administered oxygen for 1 1/2 hours. At the hospital he was treated and released. Although no broken bones in his wrist or hand were reported, Russell missed three days of work because of his injury.

Snow, also a volunteer fire fighter, testified he similarly inhaled smoke when the wind shifted while he was attempting to extinguish the fire. The witness indicated he experienced chest pains, could not breathe and vomited three or four times. Emergency medical technicians gave Snow oxygen on the way to the hospital where he was treated and released. Snow was unable to go to work that morning.

Having denied defendant's motion to exclude a Discussion between defendant and a police officer as plea-related, the trial court allowed the police officer, Terry Dawson, to testify as follows:

"Hanks wanted to know what information we had about the case on him. I told him I wasn't at liberty to discuss it with him.

He then asked me, if he could have a notice to appear that would release him from the county jail.

Mr. Hanks told me that he would tell me that he did start the fire if I would give him a notice to appear. He also wanted an order of some type stating that we wouldn't release any information to the news media, and that I could fix it that he would keep his job with the -- I believe it was the Air National Guard of ...


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