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In re J.F.

April 07, 2000


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 98--JD--524 Honorable Victoria A. Rossetti, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN

The respondent, J.F., a minor, appeals his adjudication of delinquency and sentence after he was found responsible for aggravated battery. We affirm.

The following facts are uncontroverted. The 14-year-old respondent and his 15-year-old friends, J.D and Z.D., spent the night at the respondent's grandparents' home in Waukegan, Illinois, on September 6, 1998. After the boys played Nintendo and watched part of the movie Titanic, the respondent said to his friends, "Do you want to see something cool?" The respondent then got a B.B. gun from a locked file cabinet and showed it to the two other boys. All three boys then snuck out of a window to avoid waking the respondent's grandfather. They went to a fence in the backyard of the house, and J.D. threw golf balls at two people on Yorkhouse Road. J.D. did not hit anyone with the balls. Z.D. threw rocks at cars.

J.D. testified to the following: that the respondent, having brought the B.B. gun outside, said to the other boys, "I'm going to wait for a car." On cross-examination, J.D. stated that the more accurate statement by the respondent was, "I'm going to try to hit a car." The boys could not see what was on the other side of the fence. The headlights of a car on Yorkhouse Road were visible through the slats of the fence but not the actual car. As the car went by, the respondent stuck the B.B. gun through a hole in the fence, looked through the fence, and pulled the trigger once. The car then slowed down, and the boys went back to the house. The respondent then wiped off the gun, stating that he did not want fingerprints on the gun, and put it back in the file cabinet.

The victim's father testified that, on the evening of the shooting, he was driving on Yorkhouse Road with his daughter, Valerie, age eight, in the front passenger seat. Valerie's window was open. As they traveled westbound on Yorkhouse Road, the B.B. went through the open window and struck Valerie in the right eye. Valerie's father and mother, who was following her husband in another vehicle, drove to Newcastle Road and then made a U-turn back onto Yorkhouse Road. They stopped to examine their daughter's eye and phoned the police on a cellular phone. Valerie lost her right eye.

When the boys heard the police, they climbed back into the window of the respondent's grandfather's house and went to bed. They did not know that Valerie had been injured.

J.D. later told the police what the boys had done that night. According to J.D., after the respondent learned what had happened, the respondent stated that he could not believe that he had hit Valerie and the respondent seemed really sad and sorry for what he had done.

On September 14, 1998, the Lake County State's Attorney filed a two-count petition for adjudication of wardship alleging that the respondent was a delinquent. 705 ILCS 405/5--3 (West 1998). Count I alleged aggravated battery with a firearm (720 ILCS 5/12--4.2(a)(1) (West 1998)), and count II alleged aggravated discharge of a firearm (720 ILCS 5/24--1.2(a)(2) (West 1998)). The State's Attorney later withdrew these counts and filed three different counts. Count III alleged reckless conduct (720 ILCS 5/12--5(a) (West 1998)), count IV alleged aggravated battery (intentionally or knowingly causing great bodily harm)(720 ILCS 5/12--4(a) (West 1998)), and count V alleged aggravated battery (on a public way) (720 ILCS 5/12--4(b)(8) (West 1998)). The respondent was remanded to the custody of the Lake County Youth Detention Center.

On October 13, 1998, after hearing the evidence, the trial court stated that it found that the respondent acted knowingly. The trial court stated the following:

"Again, based on the testimony, it is not an intentional act that we are talking about. It's that [the respondent] acted knowingly, and knowledge is proven by established facts and inferences drawn from those facts, and the evidence presented was that [the respondent] took a pellet gun out of the locked cabinet. Pellets were in the gun. He stood at the fence, put it in a hole, and then the testimony from the person there was that he put it in the hole and was trying to hit a car.

When he pulled that trigger, knowing the lights were going by from a car, the inference from that is an established fact or knowledge that a car doesn't drive itself; that there are people in that car, which establishes the knowledge element, and based on all of the other testimony, the Court will find [the respondent] responsible for Count II -- or excuse me, Count III, IV, and V."

After hearing testimony and arguments regarding sentencing, the trial court stated the following:

"I don't consider this just some juvenile prank. It is a very serious act that was committed. Just shooting at the back of the fence is a juvenile prank, but when you put that gun in a hole in the fence, knowing that it had pellets in it, and you waited because your intent was to hit a car, it goes beyond a juvenile prank.

I don't think you tried to hurt this girl, but when you shot the gun, as I said, you knew it could hurt someone; and so for that reason, I am ...

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