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People v. Clayton

December 30, 1998


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 96--CM--3762 Honorable Kenneth W. Torluemke, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Colwell


Following a bench trial, defendant, David H. Clayton, was found guilty of the unlicensed practice of psychology in violation of section 26 of the Clinical Psychologist Licensing Act (Act) (225 ILCS 15/26 (West 1996)). The trial court sentenced defendant to two years of court supervision with various conditions and costs. Defendant appeals and contends that the trial court's determination that he practiced psychology was erroneous because the State did not present expert testimony to prove it. We affirm.

At trial, the State presented the testimony of James P. Ward. Ward's testimony included the following. In October 1995, Ward had just separated from his wife and was concerned that his life was "pretty screwed up." Based on information he received from a sister, Ward called defendant and set up an appointment to meet with him. Ward hoped that defendant could help him get his life "back on track."

Ward met with defendant in defendant's home in Wood Dale. Ward told defendant that he wanted to straighten out problems in his life that centered around his impending divorce. Defendant proposed hypnotherapy as a method of bringing out things in Ward's mind and in his subconscious that, if brought to the front of his mind, would help Ward be at ease in his life. Ward was "shocked" by defendant's proposal. Defendant sought to reassure Ward and stated "I'm a clinical psychologist." Defendant also stated that he had gone to school in California and that he knew what he was doing. Defendant presented a card to Ward that said "hypnotherapy." Defendant told Ward that in eight or nine sessions he would be a new man. Ward then allowed defendant to hypnotize him. After the hypnosis, Ward paid defendant $75 and arranged another session with defendant.

Ward had a total of 13 sessions with defendant. After each session, Ward paid defendant $75. The last session was on January 10, 1996. The sessions typically involved hypnosis. At one or two of the sessions, Ward's wife accompanied him. At the other sessions, Ward was alone when he met with defendant.

During one of the sessions, defendant told Ward that his problem was that he disrespected women. In order to address this problem, defendant instructed Ward to write a letter to his mother and to each of his four sisters regarding their effect on Ward's life. Ward wrote the letters and defendant edited them. Ward later met with his mother and read the letter to her that he had written to her. Ward's mother did not take the letter very well. After that, Ward concluded that the sessions with defendant were not solving his problems and that he was worse off than when he started meeting with defendant. Ward therefore ended the sessions.

Ward subsequently sent a letter regarding defendant to the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation (Department). The Department responded by informing Ward that defendant was not registered with the State. Ward later confronted defendant with that information. Ward testified that defendant responded by stating that he was a clinical psychologist, that he was qualified to do the work he does, and that he knows what he's doing. Defendant told Ward that he quit the therapy too soon and that he should come back and finish the therapy sessions.

The State also presented the testimony of Gordon Wallace. Wallace's testimony included the following. Wallace is the supervisor of investigations for the Department. In February 1996, after the Department received a letter from Ward regarding defendant, Wallace began an investigation to determine whether defendant was licensed to practice psychology. Wallace checked the Department's computer and it showed that defendant was not licensed. After interviewing Ward, Wallace requested a license certification check of defendant by the Department's licensure maintenance unit. Pursuant to the certification check, the director of the Department issued an official certification showing that defendant was not licensed to practice psychology under the Act. The State submitted the official certification into evidence and then rested.

After the State rested, defendant made an oral motion for a directed finding. The trial court denied the motion. Defendant then rested. Defendant later filed a motion for a new trial. The trial court denied the motion. Defendant's timely appeal followed.

On appeal, defendant contends that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his motions for a directed verdict and for a new trial. Defendant does not contend that he had a license to practice clinical psychology when the sessions with Ward occurred. Rather, defendant asserts that the State was required to present expert testimony in order to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he practiced psychology, an element of the offense of practicing psychology without a license. Defendant argues that the State did not present the requisite expert testimony to prove that he practiced psychology and therefore did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

The State responds that it was not required to present expert testimony to prove that defendant practiced psychology in his sessions with Ward. The State maintains that the trial court correctly decided that it could determine whether defendant practiced psychology without expert testimony.

When resolving a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence in a criminal trial, a reviewing court considers all the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and determines whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Collins, 106 Ill. 2d 237, 261 (1985). A reviewing court will not reverse a criminal conviction unless the evidence is so improbable or unsatisfactory that it creates a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt. People v. Manning, 182 Ill. 2d 193, 210 (1998). In a criminal case, the State has the burden to establish beyond a reasonable doubt the essential elements of the offense. People v. Sanford, 24 Ill. 2d 365, 368 (1962).

Section 3 of the Act provides, in relevant part, that no individual "shall, without a valid license as a clinical psychologist issued by the Department, in any manner hold himself out to the public as a psychologist or clinical psychologist under the provisions of this Act or render or offer to render ...

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