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September 4, 1997


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Clinton County. No. 95-CF-42. Honorable William R. Todd, Judge, presiding.

Presiding Justice Kuehn delivered the opinion of the court. Rarick, J. concurs. Justice Hopkins, dissenting.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kuehn

PRESIDING JUSTICE KUEHN delivered the opinion of the court:

This case features that old adage that cautions restraint in what one seeks. Defendant challenges a disposition of his own making. Defendant wants us to undo his negotiated guilty pleas precisely because they bestow what defendant asked for and wanted.

Defendant insisted upon concurrent prison terms in return for his two guilty pleas. The State embraced his demand. Defendant entered two negotiated pleas and received the concurrent sentences he desired. Pursuant to his plea bargain, defendant obtained two concurrent 60-year prison terms.

On appeal, defendant complains that he bargained for sentences that he did not deserve. He raises the law's design that assures consecutive sentences for those who commit crimes like his. Defendant inveighs his prior position and insists that his crimes deserve nothing less than consecutive punishment.

This call for consecutive sentences is a paradox that resolves itself by understanding its true purpose. Defendant does not want the consecutive sentences that he now claims he deserves. Defendant exposes his negotiated dodge of the law's design to shed the sentences he earlier sought and obtained. Defendant's purpose is to slip his plea bargain's promise. Defendant's negotiated pleas, and the agreed-upon sentences those pleas confer, are inseparable elements material to the plea bargain. See People v. Evans, 174 Ill. 2d 320, 673 N.E.2d 244, 220 Ill. Dec. 332 (1996). If consecutive sentences are required, defendant's concurrent sentences are void. People v. Arna, 168 Ill. 2d 107, 658 N.E.2d 445, 212 Ill. Dec. 963 (1995). If concurrent sentences are void, defendant clearly entered his pleas unaware of their true consequence. Defendant's goal is to jettison his guilty pleas and start the criminal process anew.

We must decide whether the bargained-for concurrent sentences are void. Our decision turns on whether plea bargaining empowers the State to concede the existence of criteria that force the imposition of mandatory consecutive sentences.

In this case, defendant's multiple crimes allowed for several interpretations that placed mandatory consecutive sentences in question. Under the circumstances, the State could legitimately concede that version of defendant's crimes necessary for consecutive-sentence imposition. Defendant's concurrent sentences are the valid product of the plea bargain defendant pursued and obtained. Since mandatory consecutive sentences are not clearly required, defendant's sentences are not void and his guilty pleas are sound. We affirm.

Defendant pled guilty to two attempts at first-degree murder. The attempts involved point-blank gunfire into the face of each intended murder victim. Miraculously, an elderly man and wife sustained close-range head shots and survived.

Defendant raises section 5-8-4(a) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Code) (730 ILCS 5/5-8-4(a) (West 1994)) and argues that the crimes meet its criteria for mandatory consecutive sentences. Section 5-8-4(a) reads, in pertinent part:

"The court shall not impose consecutive sentences for offenses which were committed as part of a single course of conduct during which there was no substantial change in the nature of the criminal objective, unless, one of the offenses for which defendant was convicted was a Class X or Class 1 felony and the defendant inflicted severe bodily injury ***, in which event the court shall enter sentences to run consecutively."

No one disputes the fact that defendant inflicted severe bodily injury. Nor is there quarrel over the classification of the two attempted first-degree murders. Both are class X felonies that qualify for mandatory consecutive sentences, See People v. Perkins, 274 Ill. App. 3d 834, 837, 655 N.E.2d 325, 328, 211 Ill. Dec. 422 (1995). The decisive factor is the nature of the crimes' objective and whether it changed significantly during the crimes' course.

Defendant boasts a criminal objective that remains constant during his efforts at multiple murder. He claims that the constant objective was to hijack the victims' car. Defendant argues that the attempted murders were merely a part of the overall hijacking scheme. Thus, defendant offers two attempted murders committed as ...

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