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People v. Bell

May 09, 2000

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
TERRELL W. BELL, JR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of No. 97CF352

Adams County Honorable Dennis K. Cashman, Judge Presiding.

JUSTICE KNECHT delivered the opinion of the court:

In January 1998, a jury found defendant, Terrell W. Bell, Jr., guilty of armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-2(a) (West 1996)), robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-1(a) (West 1996)), and two counts of aggravated battery (720 ILCS 5/12-4(a), (b)(1) (West 1996)). In February 1998, the trial court sentenced defendant to 20 years' imprisonment for armed robbery and a concurrent extended term of 10 years' imprisonment for aggravated battery. Defendant appeals, arguing (1) the trial court's sentence was an abuse of discretion in light of defendant's rehabilitative potential, and (2) the trial court erred in imposing an extended-term sentence for aggravated battery because he was convicted of the more serious class offense of armed robbery. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

On August 20, 1997, defendant, Andre Anderson, Ronald Smith, and Terry Powell patronized Chuck and Charlie's Tavern in Quincy, Illinois. Upon leaving the establishment, the men beat and robbed Powell, an acquaintance of defendant, in the alley behind the tavern. Defendant struck Powell three times with either a pool cue or mop handle. Defendant, Anderson, and Smith also hit and kicked Powell. At some point, defendant took money from Powell's pants pockets. Defendant, Anderson, and Smith continued to strike and kick Powell after defendant took the money from Powell's pocket.

On August 22, 1997, the State charged defendant with one count each of armed robbery and robbery, two counts of aggravated battery, and one count of failure to register a change of address as a child sex offender (730 ILCS 150/6 (West Supp. 1997)). Later, the failure to register charge was severed upon defendant's motion.

In January 1998, a jury convicted defendant of one count each of armed robbery and robbery and two counts of aggravated battery. In February 1998, the trial court held defendant's sentencing hearing. Defendant's presentence reports indicated he was convicted of aggravated battery, trespassing, obstructing a peace officer, and unlawful possession of alcoholic liquor by a minor in 1989; no valid driver's license, possession of liquor by a minor, disturbing the peace, and trespassing in 1990; trespassing and battery in 1991; and aggravated criminal sexual assault in 1992. While incarcerated, defendant obtained a high school equivalency diploma, a bachelor's degree in computers, and an associate's degree in horticulture and landscape architecture. Defendant was released from prison in April 1996 and was on supervised release at the time of the instant offenses, August 20, 1997.

At the sentencing hearing, the State asked the trial court to sentence defendant to a term of imprisonment of 30 to 50 years. Defendant's counsel asked the trial court for leniency based on defendant's age (24) and his rehabilitative potential. The trial court sentenced defendant to 20 years' imprisonment for the armed robbery conviction and a concurrent extended-term sentence of 10 years' imprisonment for the aggravated battery conviction. When discussing its decision, the trial court stated it considered the evidence at trial, arguments of counsel, defendant's statement in allocution, defendant's rehabilitative potential, and defendant's criminal record. The trial court denied defendant's motion for a reduction of sentence and this appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Abuse of Discretion

A trial court is granted deference when imposing a sentence and is in a better position than the reviewing court to assess the credibility of the witnesses and weigh the evidence presented at a sentencing hearing. People v. Williams, 303 Ill. App. 3d 264, 268, 707 N.E.2d 729, 732 (1999). A sentence imposed within the statutory range permissible for the defendant's offense will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion. People v. Coleman, 166 Ill. 2d 247, 258, 652 N.E.2d 322, 327 (1995). The trial court is the proper forum to balance the mitigating and aggravating factors and make a reasoned decision as to the appropriate sentence. See Coleman, 166 Ill. 2d at 261-62, 652 N.E.2d at 329. A defendant's rehabilitative potential is not entitled to greater weight than the seriousness of the offense. Coleman, 166 Ill. 2d at 261, 652 N.E.2d at 329. In addition, if mitigating evidence is presented to the trial court, this court presumes the trial court took the mitigating evidence into consideration, absent some contrary evidence. People v. Zarka-Nevling, 308 Ill. App. 3d 516, 526, 720 N.E.2d 334, 341 (1999).

In this case, the trial court imposed sentences within the statutory ranges. The court sentenced defendant to 20 years' imprisonment for the armed robbery conviction and 10 years' imprisonment for the aggravated battery conviction. Defendant was eligible to receive an extended-term sentence of 30 to 60 years' imprisonment for armed robbery (730 ILCS 5/5-5-3.2(b)(1) (West Supp. 1997), 5-8-2(a)(2) (West 1996)) and 5 to 10 years' imprisonment for aggravated battery (730 ILCS 5/5-5-3.2(b)(1) (West Supp. 1997), 5-8-2(a)(5) (West 1996)). When sentencing defendant, the trial court stated it took into consideration factors in mitigation and aggravation. These factors included defendant's improvements while incarcerated; his "serious criminal record," which included a conviction for a Class X felony; and the nature of the attack on Powell. The record clearly establishes the trial court took all factors into consideration when sentencing defendant, and its decision was not an abuse of discretion. B. Extended-Term Sentence for the Aggravated Battery Conviction Defendant also argues he was not eligible to receive an extended-term sentence for the aggravated battery conviction. He contends both of his convictions arose from the same course of conduct; therefore, he was only eligible to receive an extended- term sentence on the most serious offense, i.e., armed robbery.

Section 5-8-2(a) of the Unified Code of Corrections (Code) states:

"A judge shall not sentence an offender to a term of imprisonment in excess of the maximum sentence authorized by [s]section 5-8-1 for the class of the most serious offense of which the offender was convicted unless the factors in aggravation set forth in paragraph (b) of ...


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