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People v. Mondragon

December 31, 1998


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Greiman

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Colleen McSweeney Moore, Judge Presiding.

After a bench trial, defendant Augustin Mondragon was convicted of aggravated battery of a child and sentenced to a term of 30 years in prison. On appeal, defendant contests the propriety of his sentence on the grounds that it constitutes an abuse of discretion and improperly subjected him to the truth-in-sentencing provision contained in Public Act 89-404 (Pub. Act 89-404, eff. August 20, 1995), which is allegedly unconstitutional under the single subject rule of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. IV, §8(d)).

We find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in imposing a 30-year sentence and that Public Act 89-404 is unconstitutional because it violates the single subject rule. We also find that the subsequent reenactment of the truth-in-sentencing provision in Public Act 89-462 (Pub. Act 89-462, art. II, §280, eff. May 29, 1996) validates the sentencing provision that was contained in the unconstitutional Public Act 89-404 and thus applies to defendant. Accordingly, we affirm defendant's conviction and sentence.

On November 21, 1996, about six months after the effective date of the reenactment of the truth-in-sentencing legislation, defendant lived with his common law wife Inez Roman, their eight-month-old son, and the five-year-old daughter of Roman, who is the victim. On November 21, Roman left home for work about 2:30 p.m. and returned home about 1:10 a.m. the following morning. When the victim returned home from Plamondon School in the afternoon of November 21, 1996, defendant and his eight-month-old son were home.

At trial, the victim testified that when she arrived home from school, she began her homework assignment, which was to write her last name on a piece of paper. At least twice, the victim showed her homework to defendant and he did not pay attention to her. After defendant put the victim's stepbrother to sleep, he approached the victim, who was lying on the bedroom floor on her stomach, doing her homework. Defendant told the victim that she should do her homework and she did not respond. While she was lying on her stomach, defendant then "stood on top of" her and "jumped on" her back. Defendant then hit the victim on both of her cheeks with his hand balled into a fist. Defendant also hit the victim on both of her legs with his fist. Defendant next removed his belt and struck the victim on the back with his belt, more than three times.

Before going to sleep that night, the victim saw her mother and told her what had happened. The following morning, Roman asked the victim about her bruises and walked the victim to school. The victim testified that her teacher (Miss Ramos) asked her about her bruises. After talking to her teacher, the victim went to the hospital. The victim identified pictures of herself and testified that she got the bruises and marks on her body because her "little brother's father" hit her, "jumped" on her, and "kicked" her. In her trial testimony, the victim referred to defendant as her "little brother's father" and also testified that she called him "Poppy."

The victim denied telling her mother, any police officer, any doctor, or her teacher that she (the victim) had run into a wall. The victim denied suffering any of the bruises as a result of falling on a sofa arm and denied ever running into a wall trying to get away from defendant. The victim further testified that she did not like defendant because "he didn't love" her and "he would beat [her] up sometimes with a shoe."

Roman testified that on November 21, 1996, she saw the victim before she went to work in Wheeling and, at that time, she did not see any injuries on the victim's face. When she returned from work about 1:10 a.m., Roman talked to the victim and the victim did not say anything to her at that time. The following morning about 8 a.m., Roman saw the victim and noticed bruising on her face. The victim told Roman that she had hit herself against a wall. As they walked together to school, the victim told Roman that she had fallen off a chair and hit herself on a wall. Then the victim said to Roman that "her Poppy had hit her." Roman left the victim at school and returned home. Roman testified that she first saw the multiple bruises on the victim at the hospital that day (November 22, 1996) and identified pictures of the victim and the multiple bruises depicted in the pictures.

Police officer Albert Guitterrez testified that on November 22, 1996, he was working security for Plamondon school and was contacted by one of the teachers to observe the bruising on the victim's face. The victim told Guitterrez that Poppy had beat her. Guitterrez went to the victim's home, where he arrested defendant. Defendant was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 175 pounds.

Dr. Ayesh Thakker, an expert in pediatric critical care, works at Mount Sinai Hospital in the pediatric intensive care unit and treated the victim in the early afternoon on November 22, 1996, after being summoned to the emergency room to see her. The victim was admitted to the hospital and remained for 15 days. The victim was discharged on December 6, 1996, from the pediatric floor of the hospital with the understanding that she would be transferred to a special unit called Under the Rainbow, which is located in the hospital and deals with the psychological evaluation of children who may be victims of physical abuse.

In the emergency room, Thakker observed the victim's bruises, ordered intravenous fluids based on her dehydration, and ordered various tests, including CAT scans of the abdomen and head, chest X rays, and blood work. The victim discussed and described pain all over her body but specifically in the abdomen. Further examination and test results revealed that the victim suffered complete obstruction of the intestines, meaning that she could not eat or drink until the obstruction was completely relieved and, if the obstruction was not relieved on its own, surgical intervention would be needed to correct the obstruction. Due to the intestinal obstruction, the victim had to receive nutrition through an intravenous procedure for two weeks. Throughout the victim's hospital stay, a pediatric surgery team was involved in her treatment because surgical correction might be required.

Chest X rays revealed fractures to the ribs, which were in the healing stages, indicating probable injuries occurring in the previous two or three weeks. Such injury is not present with minor trauma but rather "usually indicates very severe aggressive local impact *** essentially a severe injury, severe magnitude or force."

The victim told Thakker that her stepfather inflicted the injuries. Thakker testified that "considering the extent of her injuries *** [the victim] seemed to be pretty tolerant of the pain, which was very surprising."

Thakker further testified that the victim's injuries "were not consistent with a fall" based on "the multiple extent of the injuries." She observed that the victim had bruises over the face, arm, legs, back and front. The nature of the injuries indicated "high impact injury or high force injury" and the multiple number of injuries indicated "more than one point of impact." The pattern of injury indicated being struck with a fist or kicked.

Thakker concluded that the victim had suffered nonaccidental or inflicted, high impact or high force, sequential injuries and probably repetitive injuries at many parts of the body. The injuries require "very severe force." Thakker opined that it was "extremely unlikely" that ...

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