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People v. Taylor

June 22, 2000


Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois No. 97--CF--1027 Honorable Robert Barnes Judge, Presiding

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Holdridge

Defendant, Blair R. Taylor, was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. 720 ILCS 5/12--16(d) (West 1994). He appeals, claiming that: (1) he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the court erred in allowing testimony regarding the contents of a missing videotape; (3) the jury instructions were inadequate; and (4) the court erred in limiting his cross-examination of a witness. We affirm.


Testimony of Ann Spengler: Spengler testified that she attended a party at defendant's residence on November 23, 1996. She was 14 years old at that time. Ultimately, everyone left the party except defendant, Spengler, and Mandy Ramsey (defendant's girlfriend). At defendant's request, Spengler and Ramsey got into his hot tub. He stayed out of the tub and videotaped them as Ramsey fondled Spengler's breasts. He held the video camera with one hand and masturbated with the other. At some point, he told Ramsey to touch Spengler's vagina, but Spengler refused. After 20 to 30 minutes, they all got into a bed and defendant began having sex with Ramsey. He simultaneously made two attempts to touch Spengler's vagina, but she pushed his hand away both times.

Testimony of Daryle Bachman, Betty Siedlarz, and David Goodwin: Bachman and Siedlarz testified that they subsequently viewed a videotape of Spengler and Ramsey naked in a hot tub and fondling each other's breasts. Defendant's voice was audible in the background. Bachman further testified that he returned the tape, with others, to defendant after viewing it. Defendant said he did not want the tapes and told Bachman to "get them out of here." Nevertheless, Bachman left the tapes with him. Goodwin, who was with defendant at the time, confirmed Bachman's account of returning the tapes.

Testimony of Rosa Contreras: Contreras testified that she viewed a videotape of defendant, Spengler, and Ramsey naked in a hot tub. At one point, Spengler had her arm around Ramsey's neck. Contreras did not notice any sound on the tape, but she stopped watching after only five minutes.

Testimony of Police Officers Troy Burns and Kim Sylvester: Burns and Sylvester testified that they searched defendant's residence on November 19, 1997, and recovered several videotapes. They delivered the tapes to lab officers without viewing them. Sylvester also spoke with defendant that day. Although defendant never admitted any guilt, he acknowledged sleeping in the same bed with Spengler and Ramsey on the night of the party. To Sylvester's knowledge, the tapes he and Burns recovered from defendant's residence did not contain anything of evidentiary value.

Testimony of defendant: Defendant testified that he celebrated his birthday at his residence on November 23, 1996. No one used the hot tub that night. He went to bed with Ramsey when the party broke up at about 2 a.m. Spengler was asleep on the living room couch, and she remained there until the following morning. Defendant denied telling Officer Sylvester that he slept in the same bed with Spengler and Ramsey. He never touched Spengler in a sexual manner or encouraged Ramsey to do so. The only nudity on his videotapes involved his girlfriend "just parading around the house." He never taped Spengler or anyone else engaged in sexual conduct.

The jury found defendant guilty of aggravated criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12--16(d) (West 1994)), and he now appeals.


1. Reasonable Doubt

First, defendant claims that the State's evidence did not establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. When faced with such a claim, we view the evidence in a light most favorable to the State and determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found the elements of the crime proven beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Collins, 106 Ill. 2d 237, 478 N.E.2d 267 (1985). We do not reassess the witnesses' credibility or reweigh their testimony, since these functions belong to the jury. People v. Jimerson, 127 Ill. 2d 12, 535 N.E.2d 889 (1989). A reversal is warranted only if the evidence is so improbable or unsatisfactory that it leaves a reasonable doubt regarding the defendant's guilt. People v. Flowers, 306 Ill. App. 3d 259, 714 N.E.2d 577 (1999) (noting that mere conflicts in the evidence are not enough).

The offense of aggravated criminal sexual abuse occurs when the accused "commits an act of *** sexual conduct with a victim who was at least 13 years of age but under 17 years of age and the accused was at least 5 years older than the victim." 720 ILCS 5/12--16(d) (West 1994). A conviction is also proper under the accountability theory when a defendant, intending to promote or facilitate the offense, aids and abets another person who actually commits the offense. 720 ILCS 5/5--2(c) (West 1996). "One may aid and abet without actively participating in the overt act." People v. Taylor, 164 Ill. 2d 131, 140, 646 N.E.2d 567, 571 (1995). Thus, a defendant is accountable for the acts of another person if they share "a common criminal plan or purpose." Taylor, 164 Ill. 2d at 140-41, 646 N.E.2d at 571.

Applying these principles to the instant case, we conclude that the State presented sufficient evidence to prove defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The record shows that Spengler and defendant satisfied the statutory age requirements on the night of defendant's party. According to the State's evidence, defendant requested Spengler and Ramsey (his girlfriend) to get in his hot tub while all three were naked. Ramsey then began fondling Spengler's breasts--an act of sexual conduct. See 720 ILCS 5/12--12(e) (West 1996). Rather than disassociate himself from this conduct, defendant videotaped it while simultaneously masturbating. He also directed Ramsey to fondle Spengler's vagina, ...

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