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08/09/96 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. VERNETTA CASSELL

August 9, 1996

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
VERNETTA CASSELL, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE, V. CURLEE SIMMONS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable John J. Moran, Judge Presiding.

Rehearing Denied September 11, 1996. Released for Publication September 17, 1996.

Presiding Justice McNULTY delivered the opinion of the court. Gordon and Hourihane, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mcnulty

PRESIDING JUSTICE McNULTY delivered the opinion of the court:

The case involves the consolidated appeals of Curlee Simmons and Vernetta Cassell. Following a bench trial, defendant Simmons was found guilty of aggravated criminal sexual assault, home invasion and aggravated kidnapping and sentenced to three consecutive 15-year terms of imprisonment. Defendant Cassell was found guilty of aggravated criminal sexual assault and was sentenced to three consecutive six-year terms of imprisonment. We affirm the convictions of both defendants.

At trial, the victim, C.G., attempted to assert her fifth amendment privilege not to testify. The trial court denied C.G.'s request but granted the State's request to treat C.G. as a hostile witness. C.G. testified that on December 8, 1992, she was living in a third-floor apartment at 1606 West Albion in Chicago with her boyfriend, Curlee Simmons. That evening, she was at her downstairs neighbor's apartment when Simmons pushed the door open, entered her neighbor's bedroom, and asked C.G. if she would talk to him. Simmons pulled C.G. outside and told C.G. to get in the car. C.G. lost one shoe as Simmons was pulling her. C.G. and Simmons went into the front seat of the car. Simmons sat in the passenger's seat and C.G. sat on the floor near the passenger's seat. Vernetta Cassell was in the driver's seat of the car. Cassell drove while Simmons and Cassell hit C.G. in the face. Simmons said that he was sorry he hit C.G. and that he was "not really going to hurt" her. Simmons then pulled C.G. into the back seat and punched and hit C.G. on her face, chest and arm. C.G. and Simmons then had sexual intercourse, and Simmons penetrated her both vaginally and orally. Simmons also put his fingers in C.G.'s vagina and her anus. C.G. testified that Cassell eventually stopped the car and C.G. got out of the car with Simmons. C.G. was not wearing a jacket or shoes. C.G. said that she was cold, and Simmons gave her his coat and said that he was sorry for "everything." C.G. ran from Simmons and knocked on the door of the first house she passed.

The police arrived soon thereafter and arrested Simmons. C.G. was taken to the hospital, where she was treated for scratches on her hands, bites on her hands, arms and chest, and a bruised and bloodshot eye. Her nose, mouth and eye were swollen.

C.G. admitted that she had told detectives that when Simmons pushed his way into her neighbor's apartment, she thought he had a gun in his inner coat pocket. She had also told the detectives that, after Simmons dragged her to the car, he said that if C.G. did not shut up, he was going to kill her. Cassell told her that "if [she] told anyone, she would kill [her]." C.G. also told the detectives that Simmons had put an unknown object as well as his fingers in her anus. She also told the detectives that she was forced into having vaginal intercourse with Simmons. C.G. testified that, at some point, Simmons got out of the car and left C.G. with Cassell. C.G. locked the car doors and told Cassell to drive away and not let Simmons back into the car. Cassell said she would not do that to Simmons. Simmons then got back into the car and he cursed C.G. and hit her. C.G. admitted telling detectives that when she exited the car with Simmons, he tried to force her into a vacant lot and told her that he was going to kill her. She also told detectives that when she ran away from Simmons and started banging on the door to a house, Simmons beat her and tried to drag her away from the door.

C.G. testified on cross-examination that while she did not at first consent to vaginal intercourse or oral sex with Simmons, she did later consent. However, she never consented to the penetration of her anus. C.G. testified that during the course of her relationship with Simmons, they would have arguments in which Simmons would strike her and, afterwards, they would have sexual relations. C.G. also testified that she hit Simmons in the car and he hit her back. While she was initially reluctant to get into the car with Simmons, she eventually agreed to enter the car. She never told Simmons to stop having sex with her. C.G. testified that Cassell said that C.G. had lied to her about Simmons and Cassell then hit C.G. in the face several times.

Carol Severin, a registered nurse at Loretto Hospital, testified that she treated C.G. in the emergency room at 3 a.m. on December 9, 1992. C.G. was sobbing when she told Severin that her ex-boyfriend broke into her neighbor's apartment, pulled her outside by her hair and dragged her into a car that a female was driving. The ex-boyfriend hit her on her head and body. C.G. also told Severin that her ex-boyfriend forced her to have oral sex, vaginal sex, and then he inserted something into her rectum. Severin noticed that C.G. had a swollen eye, multiple abrasions under her eyes, a hemorrhage in the intercanular of her left eye, a large contusion on the midpariental area of the head, a swollen lip, a swollen nose and dried blood in both nares.

Officer Joseph Vandenbranden testified that while on patrol on December 8, 1992, he was flagged down by two young girls and learned that C.G. had been taken by Simmons at gunpoint from an apartment at 1606 West Albion. Officer Vandenbranden observed that the door to the first-floor apartment was open, the door frame was in pieces on the floor, and a shoe print was in the middle of the door.

Officer Latonia Rice next testified that at about 1:10 a.m. on December 9, 1992, she responded to a call from a house at 4954 West Kamerling. Upon arriving at the house, she was approached by C.G., who was crying. Officer Rice observed bruises on C.G.'s face, hands and arms. C.G. cried out, "Get him. Don't let him get away" as she pointed to a man running in the park across the street. C.G. told Officer Latonia that the man across the street had put the bruises on her. After a short foot chase, the officers grabbed Simmons and C.G. identified him as the man who had put the bruises on her.

Assistant State's Attorney Raymond Regner next testified that on December 9, 1992, he gave Cassell her Miranda rights and Cassell agreed to give a statement. Cassell stated that she and Simmons were good friends and that she picked Simmons up at about 7:30 p.m. on December 8, 1992. Cassell agreed to drive Simmons to C.G.'s house. At 9:30 p.m., she parked in an alley next to C.G.'s house. Simmons told her to wait. Cassell saw Simmons pulling C.G. out of the apartment building by her collar and noticed C.G.'s head tilted to the side, away from Simmons' grasp. Simmons sat in the front passenger seat, pulled C.G. into the seat, and forced C.G. over his lap. Simmons was shouting at C.G. and spitting in her face. Simmons was also beating C.G. on her face and body with his hands and fists while she was lying in his lap. Cassell then ordered C.G. to get down on the floor of the passenger's side and sit between the dashboard and the front seat. Cassell stated that as Simmons was beating C.G., he was shouting "Shut up Bitch" and "Bitch, I should kill you." Cassell stated that she drove toward Caldwell and Oakton, to an area with trees. As she was driving, Simmons shouted "Bitch, get in the back." C.G. replied "just don't hurt me." Cassell then stated that she saw C.G. climb over the front seat and saw Simmons climb over the seat after her. Cassell then stated that she got out of the car to make a phone call and that when she returned, she saw Simmons having sex with C.G. Cassell then got back into the car and started driving. She heard Simmons order C.G. to climb back into the front seat and then order C.G. to perform oral sex. Cassell stated that as she was driving away from Caldwell and Oakton, Simmons grabbed C.G.'s hair and forced her head down on his penis and forced it up and down several times.

Cassell stated that as she continued to drive, she heard Simmons order C.G. into the back seat again and say "Bitch, take your pants down." She stated that she saw the struggle between Simmons and C.G. and saw Simmons punching C.G. Cassell stated that she stopped the car at an alley near Simmons' mother's house and watched as Simmons carried C.G., who was wearing no shoes, into the alley. Cassell stated that ...


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