The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'brien
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County
Honorable Daniel J. Kelley, Judge Presiding.
Following a jury trial, defendant, Jimmy Pitts, was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual abuse, and attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault. The trial court sentenced defendant to a term of natural life for the aggravated criminal sexual assault conviction, 14 years for the aggravated criminal sexual abuse conviction, and 15 years for the attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault conviction, the terms to run consecutively. On appeal, defendant contends the trial court erred by: (1) admitting evidence of other sexual crimes committed by defendant; (2) admitting hearsay testimony of statements made by the two minor victims; (3) failing to properly instruct the jury; and (4) improperly sentencing defendant to consecutive terms. We affirm.
At trial, Brandi *fn1 testified that in October 1993 she was eight years old and lived with her mother, brother, two sisters, and her mother's boyfriend (defendant). On October 16, 1993, the defendant and Brandi's mom went to a party, leaving Brandi and her three siblings alone in the house. The children played for awhile, then Brandi went to bed. Around 1 a.m., defendant walked into the bedroom where Brandi was sleeping, picked her up, carried her to her mother's bedroom, and set her down on the bed. Defendant and Brandi were alone in the room.
Defendant locked the bedroom door and twice asked Brandi to take off her clothes. Brandi refused both times. Defendant put his hand up the left leg of her pajamas and rubbed his hand on her vagina. Defendant then "put his finger half-way in [her] vagina." Defendant pulled his penis out of his pants and told her to touch it. He grabbed her hand by the wrist and made her rub his penis. He told her that he was going to have sex with her when she turned 14. He also told her that he would kill her if she told anyone what he had done. Then he carried her back to her bedroom, put her in bed, and walked towards her sisters' (Sonja and Lourina's) bedroom.
Brandi got out of bed and hid behind the refrigerator in the kitchen, in order to see what defendant was going to do next. Brandi observed her sister, Sonja, get out of bed and walk into the kitchen. Her other sister, Lourina, was still asleep in the bedroom. Brandi saw defendant close the bedroom door and jam a screwdriver into the lock in order to keep it closed. Defendant then told Sonja that he wanted her to fill some jugs full of water and take them to the car.
Sonja went into the bathroom and filled the jugs with water. Sonja and defendant then walked out the back door; Brandi heard them walk upstairs to the vacant second-floor apartment. Brandi went back to her bedroom and lay down on the bed. She heard screaming and thumping coming from upstairs. She woke up her brother, Ahmad, who shared the bedroom with her, and then they ran upstairs to the second-floor apartment and opened the door.
Brandi saw Sonja lying face-down on the floor. Defendant was standing "some steps away" from Sonja. He had a pocket knife in his hand. When defendant saw Brandi and Ahmad, he ran out the front door. Brandi, Sonja, and Ahmad ran to their apartment downstairs and locked the door. Brandi looked out the living room window and saw defendant drive away. Brandi, Sonja, and Ahmad then ran to a neighbor's house and called their grandmother. The grandmother told them to come right over, so they went to her house. Brandi told her grandmother what defendant had done to her, and the grandmother called the police.
Sonja testified that she was 13 years old in October 1993. On October 16, 1993, the defendant and Sonja's mom went to a party, leaving Sonja and her three siblings home alone. Sonja watched some television with her brother and sisters, then went to bed at approximately 11 p.m.
She woke up when she heard defendant come in the front door. Defendant later walked into her bedroom and asked her to take some water jugs to the vacant apartment upstairs. She filled the jugs with water, walked upstairs, and set them next to the bathroom door. She was about to walk out the back door, when defendant came up behind her and locked the door.
Defendant grabbed her and put a knife to her neck. Sonja screamed and stomped her feet on the floor. Defendant told her to shut up, otherwise he would kill her. Then he dragged her to the living room and laid her face-down on the floor. Defendant lay on top of her back, then got off and told her to turn over. As defendant started to unbutton his pants, Brandi and Ahmad pushed open the door and walked inside. When defendant saw them, he ran out the front door.
Sonja, Brandi, and Ahmad ran downstairs to their apartment and locked the door. Sonja looked out the window and saw defendant drive away, then the three of them went to a neighbor's house. The neighbor took Sonja to her grandmother's house, and the grandmother called the police.
Ahmad testified that he was 11 years old in October 1993. On October 16, 1993, Ahmad's sister, Brandi, woke him up and told him that she heard somebody upstairs. Ahmad heard his sister, Sonja, screaming. Ahmad and Brandi ran to the upstairs apartment, where he saw Sonja lying on the floor. Defendant was standing over her, with a knife in his hand. When defendant saw Ahmad and Brandi, he ran out the front door. Ahmad, Brandi, and Sonja then ran downstairs and waited there until defendant drove away. Then they ran to a neighbor's house and called their grandmother. They went to their grandmother's house, and she called the police.
Doris, the children's grandmother, testified she and her husband were asleep in their home on October 17, 1993, when she was awakened by a phone call at approximately 1 or 2 a.m. Following the conversation, the four grandchildren came to her house. Doris testified that Brandi told her defendant had touched the outside of her vagina and had inserted his finger inside her vagina. Doris also testified that Sonja told her defendant had put a knife to her throat, threw her on the floor, took his knee and pressed her legs apart.
The jury convicted defendant of aggravated criminal sexual assault against Brandi, aggravated criminal sexual abuse against Brandi, and attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault against Sonja. The trial court sentenced defendant, respectively, to natural life, 14 years' imprisonment, and 15 years' ...