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11/30/88 the People of the State of v. Thomas G. Hetzel

November 30, 1988

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

THOMAS G. HETZEL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

DEFENDANT, THOMAS G. HETZEL, WAS FOUND GUILTY IN A JURY TRIAL IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF LAKE COUNTY OF OBSTRUCTING A PEACE OFFICER (ILL. RE

v.

STAT. 1987, CH. 38, PAR. 31-1) AND WAS SENTENCED TO A ONE-YEAR TERM OF PROBATION AND 75 HOURS OF PUBLIC SERVICE WORK. THE ONLY ISSUE ON APPEAL IS WHETHER DEFENDANT WAS PROVED GUILTY BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT OF OBSTRUCTING A PEACE OFFICER.



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT

531 N.E.2d 436, 176 Ill. App. 3d 630, 126 Ill. Dec. 141 1988.IL.1728

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. Henry C. Tonigan, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE REINHARD delivered the opinion of the court. LINDBERG, P.J., and NASH, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE REINHARD

We briefly summarize the evidence at trial. Suzanne Meseke leased a residence located at 600 Buckingham Place, Libertyville, Illinois. On August 15, 1987, Meseke called the Libertyville police department and complained of a domestic dispute she was having with defendant, who resided with her. Meseke testified that she called the police because defendant had become violent and had done some pushing and shoving. Officers James Daniel and Robert Townsend and Lieutenant William McCormick were dispatched to the scene.

When the officers arrived at her home, Meseke met them outside and told Lt. McCormick that defendant had been pushing and shoving her around and that she wanted defendant removed from her home. Lieutenant McCormick noticed that Meseke had a bruise on her nose and was upset. Meseke also requested that her house keys and car keys, which were on defendant's key chain, be returned to her because she was afraid of him. Although Meseke and defendant had been living together for 3 1/2 months, defendant was not a party to the lease agreement.

Lieutenant McCormick entered Meseke's home and informed defendant that Meseke wanted him to leave the premises. Initially, defendant told Lt. McCormick he would not leave until Lt. McCormick moved Meseke's car, which was blocking his car. Defendant was belligerent and defensive. Defendant then stated that he would leave the house and went to change his clothes while Lt. McCormick moved Meseke's car. During the Discussion, Lt. McCormick told defendant he could get his property out in the morning and Meseke could have an officer present so there would not be any problem. After he changed clothes, defendant began to search for his keys which Lt. McCormick held in his hand. At that point, defendant noticed the keys in Lt. McCormick's hand, and, when Lt. McCormick asked him which keys were to the front door of Meseke's automobile, defendant took the keys from Lt. McCormick and placed the keys in his coat pocket. Lieutenant McCormick informed defendant that Meseke wanted her house and car keys returned to her because she was fearful that defendant would return. Lieutenant McCormick told defendant that he would not be allowed to leave until those keys were returned. While defendant admitted that Meseke's keys were in his possession, he refused to return the keys. Defendant stated that he had personal items in the house which were of considerable value. Defendant testified that he believed he would be unable to retrieve those items if he surrendered the keys.

When defendant refused to return Meseke's keys, Lt. McCormick walked up to defendant and reached into his coat pocket to retrieve the keys. The testimony of the witnesses as to the events which occurred subsequently differs somewhat. Lieutenant McCormick testified that as he reached for the keys, defendant pushed him, charged forward, and knocked him and Officer Daniels to the floor. A struggle ensued, and defendant was shocked with an electric stun gun, subdued, and handcuffed. Meseke testified that Lt. McCormick placed a stun gun on defendant's chest and defendant then fell to the floor immediately. Officer Daniels testified that after defendant pushed Lt. McCormick away, he and Lt. McCormick struggled to control defendant. When Daniels lost control of defendant's arm, he used his stun gun on the small of defendant's back to subdue him.

Defendant testified that after he refused to relinquish Meseke's keys, Lt. McCormick attempted to push him backwards by placing his shoulders in defendant's chest. As Lt. McCormick went for the keys, defendant stated that he put his hand someplace on Lt. McCormick, trying to stop him from getting the keys. Defendant stated that suddenly he felt his legs start to buckle and a knee being thrust into his back. Defendant believed that someone jumped him from behind as he attempted to resist Lt. McCormick. Defendant claimed that he was shocked twice before the officers eventually subdued him.

On appeal, defendant contends that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt one of the essential elements of obstructing a peace officer. Defendant asserts that the evidence adduced at trial clearly demonstrates that Lt. McCormick was not performing an authorized act when he attempted to take Meseke's keys from defendant's coat pocket. The State maintains that in spite of defendant's belief that the officers were engaged in an unauthorized act, Lt. McCormick's conduct was proper because the keys belonged to Meseke.

A criminal conviction will not be set aside unless the evidence is so improbable or unsatisfactory that it creates a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt. (People v. Collins (1985), 106 Ill. 2d 237, 261, 478 N.E.2d 267.) The relevant inquiry is whether, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Collins, 106 Ill. 2d at 261, 478 N.E.2d at 277.

Section 31 -- 1 of the Criminal Code of 1961 states:

"A person who knowingly resists or obstructs the performance by one known to the person to be a peace officer of any authorized act within his official capacity commits a Class A ...


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