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06/26/97 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. JAMES LEE MEISTER

June 26, 1997

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JAMES LEE MEISTER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County. Nos. 95CM573, 95CM553. Honorable Joseph H. Kelley, Judge Presiding.

As Corrected August 5, 1997.

Honorable James A. Knecht, J., Honorable Robert J. Steigmann, P.j. - Concur, Honorable Rita B. Garman, J. - Concur. Justice Knecht delivered the opinion of the court.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Knecht

JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the opinion of the court:

Following a jury trial in the circuit court of McLean County, defendant James Lee Meister was convicted of obstructing service of process (720 ILCS 5/31-3 (West 1994)) and criminal trespass to residence (720 ILCS 5/19-4 (West 1994)). Defendant challenges only his conviction for obstructing service of process. Defendant contends the evidence was insufficient to support his obstructing conviction because (1) he committed no physical act of obstruction as purportedly required by the statute and (2) no actual obstruction occurred. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

At trial, on October 11, 1995, Deputy Richard Scott of the McLean County sheriff's department testified he received a telephone call from defendant between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. on February 21, 1995. Defendant stated a neighbor informed him the police had been going to his home at 1824 West Olive, Bloomington, Illinois (Olive residence), and defendant wanted to know the reason for the visits. Deputy Scott told defendant the officers possessed a subpoena to be served upon defendant's wife, Shannon Meister. Defendant then claimed Shannon no longer resided at that residence and said he believed Shannon was residing at an unknown address in Florida. Defendant stated he was being harassed by the officers and threatened to contact his attorney. Deputy Scott stated unless the department received solid information to the contrary, the department would continue to look for Shannon at the Olive residence.

Shortly after his conversation with defendant, Deputy Scott telephoned the Olive residence. Shannon answered. Deputy Scott told Shannon a subpoena had been issued for her to testify, an officer was standing by to serve the subpoena, and she needed to open the door. Deputy Scott then radioed Deputy John Foster.

Shortly after 10 a.m. on February 21, 1995, Deputy Foster received the call from Deputy Scott directing him to attempt service upon Shannon. Shannon answered the door and he served her with the subpoena. Deputy Foster made five prior attempts to serve the subpoena at the Olive residence. On one occasion, he observed a curtain move in a manner indicating someone was peeking from behind the curtain.

Veronica Gray, Shannon's mother, testified she had no knowledge her daughter ever lived in Florida. According to Gray, Shannon resided in Bloomington during February 1995, but Gray was unable to recall whether Shannon resided at the Salvation Army or at the Olive residence on February 21, 1995.

Shannon testified she and defendant separated in either the second or third week of February but she was unable to recall the date. Defendant stayed at the Olive residence, to which Shannon maintained a key. Shannon lied to defendant and told him she was relocating to Florida. On February 21, 1995, Shannon, who had not spoken with defendant since the separation, went to the Olive residence to gather some belongings without defendant's knowledge. After she received the subpoena, Shannon called her husband at work. Shannon returned to live at the Olive residence on either February 21 or 22, 1995.

Defendant testified when he and Shannon separated, Shannon informed him she was going to Florida to visit her grandfather and stepgrandmother, one of whom was ill. Shannon took her child, defendant's stepson, with her. After defendant asked a neighbor to watch his residence because he believed Shannon might return, the neighbor telephoned defendant at work to inform him the police had been to his residence. From his place of employment, defendant contacted the police via telephone on two occasions regarding the police visits. During the conversations, when the police inquired how they could contact Shannon, defendant stated they should ask her mother. The police informed defendant they could go to his home at any time and, because of an earlier discussion with Gray, they would continue to look for Shannon there.

The jury found defendant guilty of obstructing service of process. Defendant filed a motion for a new trial, contending the trial court erred in denying his motion for a directed verdict because defendant's actions did not constitute a physical act as allegedly required by the statute. The trial court denied defendant's motion and sentenced defendant to 24 months' conditional discharge for both the criminal trespass and obstructing offenses. Defendant filed a timely notice of appeal. The appeals ...


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