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May 12, 1994


Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit Whiteside County, Illinois. No. 93-CF-3. Honorable Timothy J. Slavin, Judge, Presiding.

Released for Publication June 15, 1994. Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied October 6, 1994.

Present - Honorable Kent Slater, Honorable Tom M. Lytton, Justice, Honorable Tobias Barry, Justice

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lytton

JUSTICE LYTTON delivered the opinion of the court:

Following an incident in Whiteside County, defendant, Gary Verkruysse, was charged with two counts of intimidation of two undercover Illinois conservation officers. (Ill. Rev. Stat 1991, ch. 38, par. 12-6(a)(1).) A jury convicted defendant on one of these counts, and the circuit court of Whiteside County entered judgment on verdict, which the defendant now appeals. We reverse.

On December 5, 1992, defendant was hunting with a group of friends on land owned by Jack Nowers in Whiteside County. Defendant testified that he noticed someone driving a blue Chevy Blazer on the land with a gun sticking out an open window. Minutes later, a uniformed conservation officer arrived and apparently issued the two individuals in the Blazer a ticket for having an uncased gun in the motor vehicle. Actually, the two men in the Blazer were undercover conservation officers, and the issuance of the ticket was a staged event.

The undercover officers drove away, and the uniformed officer then arrested defendant and other members of the hunting party for hunting without permission. However, defendant testified that he had permission to hunt on the land and was later acquitted on the charge of hunting without permission.

After being issued citations, defendant and the other members of the hunting party drove approximately two miles into Erie to get something to eat at Casey's General Store. As the group left Casey's, they saw the blue Blazer drive past the store. Defendant got into his vehicle and pulled out behind the Blazer. While the Blazer was stopped at a stop sign, defendant pulled along the left side of the Blazer. Another vehicle, driven by Mark Nitz, pulled up along the right side of the Blazer. Nitz and defendant's brother, Marty Verkruysee, exited their vehicle and walked in between the driver's side of the Blazer and the passenger's side of defendant's vehicle. Shortly thereafter, a third vehicle from the hunting party pulled up, and its occupants got out.

Officer Terry Holbrook was the driver of the Blazer, and Officer James Thomas was the passenger. Defendant, sitting in the driver's seat of his vehicle, began a conversation with Holbrook. Defendant testified that he asked the two men in the Blazer if they were conservation officers, to which Holbrook replied that they were not conservation officers. Defendant stated that Thomas replied by asking "who the fuck wants to know?"

Officer Thomas testified that defendant asked them who had given them permission to hunt and that he told defendant that Mr. Nowers gave them permission. Thomas further testified that after the officers told defendant that they were from the Neponset area, defendant told them that they "had no business hunting over here" and that "if you know what's good for you you will keep your asses on the other side of the river." Thomas then asked defendant what he would do about it, because defendant was not the landowner. Thomas testified that defendant then told him to get out of his vehicle so that they could "get it on right here."

Thomas testified that the persons who had exited their vehicles were standing outside yelling at the officers. The record indicates that both defendant and Thomas spoke in a hostile tone of voice using profane language during the confrontation. Thomas repeatedly asked defendant if he was threatening him, to which defendant replied that he was not threatening the officers. The incident occurred in a residential area on a two-way street. Defendant and the others departed the scene when motorists wanted to access the road.

It is important to note that while defendant and the others had been hunting, there was no testimony that guns were displayed by defendant or the others at any time during the incident. Nor was anyone charged with improperly carrying a firearm. The weapons were properly stored.

After a jury trial, defendant was convicted of the intimidation of Officer Thomas. Defendant appeals, raising two issues.

We first address defendant's contention that the State failed to prove him guilty of intimidation beyond a reasonable doubt. If, after viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found each element of intimidation beyond a reasonable doubt, we must affirm defendant's ...

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