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01/13/89 the People of the State of v. Helen Stidham

January 13, 1989

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

HELEN STIDHAM, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT

533 N.E.2d 957, 178 Ill. App. 3d 643, 127 Ill. Dec. 875 1989.IL.29

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. William D. Block, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

PRESIDING JUSTICE UNVERZAGT delivered the opinion of the court. INGLIS and DUNN, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE UNVERZAGT

The defendant, Helen Stidham, was convicted in the circuit court of Lake County of seven counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 12-16(d)), a Class 2 felony punishable by not less than three and not more than seven years' imprisonment (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 1005-8-1(a)(5)). Following the bench trial and conviction, the probation department prepared a presentence investigation report and filed it with the court. This report contained one section entitled "Victim Impact Analysis" which included paraphrased statements of the victim's father regarding the effects of the offense on the victim.

At the sentencing hearing, the trial court accepted the presentence investigation report and permitted the victim's father to testify over the defendant's objections on both matters. The defendant presented four character witnesses and made a statement on her own behalf to the court. Argument was presented by both the defendant and the People. The court reviewed the offenses of which it had earlier convicted the defendant and considered the range of possible mitigating and aggravating factors. Then the court sentenced the defendant to 5 1/2 years' imprisonment.

TOn appeal, the defendant contends that the trial court erred in admitting the statements of the victim's father as contained in the presentence investigation report in that these statements comprised a victim impact statement pursuant to the Bill of Rights for Victims and Witnesses of Violent Crime Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 1401 et seq.) (the Act), and the showing required by the Act (that the victim was unable to present his own statement) was not made. The defendant likewise contends that the victim's father's actual testimony constituted a victim impact statement within the meaning of the Act and was similarly not admissible. Lastly, the defendant asserts that the trial court's sentence was excessive and an abuse of discretion since the presentence investigation report recommended probation, the prosecutor recommended three years' imprisonment, and the defendant had no prior criminal record.

We hold that the Act is inapplicable to the facts presented here. Further, we determine that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in imposing a sentence of 5 1/2 years' imprisonment, and we affirm the sentence. A review of the pertinent facts follows.

The evidence at trial showed that the defendant, a 30-year-old divorced mother of four children, ages 2 through 10, was residing in Zion, Illinois, and was a neighbor of the victim at the time of the offenses. The victim, Chad Fox, age 13, lived with his father and various other family members two or three houses away from the defendant and her children. Over a period of time, beginning in the late spring of 1986, the defendant befriended the victim and ultimately engaged him in a sexual affair which spanned June through November 1986. During this time, the victim essentially lived in the defendant's home and slept with her in her bed, and the defendant engaged the victim in sexual intercourse and oral sex on a regular basis. The defendant and the victim wore each others' rings on necklaces attesting to their special relationship. Additionally, the defendant furnished alcohol to the victim and other minors on numerous occasions and frequently drove them around in her car late at night. In August 1986, various members of the victim's family confronted the defendant with their suspicions that she was conducting an improper relationship with the victim. The defendant denied that anything inappropriate was taking place between her and the victim.

In December 1986, the Zion police issued a criminal complaint charging the defendant with aggravated criminal sexual abuse (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 12-16(d)). On March 19, 1987, a grand jury returned an indictment, charging the defendant with eight counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and nine counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1987, ch. 38, par. 12-14(b)(1)).

On April 29, 1987, following a bench trial, the trial court found the defendant guilty of seven counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse and scheduled a sentencing hearing for June 23, 1987. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court allowed the State to present testimony of George Fox, the victim's father, over the defendant's objection. The trial court likewise denied the defendant's request that the court not consider a portion of the presentence investigation report which contained paraphrased statements made by Mr. Fox to the probation officer who had prepared the report. This portion of the report was entitled "Victim Impact Analysis." Mr. Fox' testimony and his statements contained in the presentence investigation report comprised, inter alia, his observations of his son's depression, loss of sleep and weight, suicidal statements and attempt, and psychiatric hospitalization.

The trial court ruled as inadmissible Mr. Fox' remarks in the presentence investigation report regarding nonvictims. Further, the trial court sustained the defendant's objections to the State's attempts to elicit subjective responses and Conclusions from Mr. Fox.

The defendant presented four character witnesses and addressed the court herself in her own behalf. The court considered the defendant's statement, argument from both counsel, the evidence presented at both the bench trial and the sentencing hearing, and the information contained in the presentence ...


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