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People v. Beasley

June 30, 2000


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McNULTY

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Thomas Sumner, Judge Presiding.

Defendant was charged by indictment with six counts of criminal sexual assault. Following a bench trial, the court found defendant guilty of one count and sentenced him to 10 years incarceration.

Lareese Spencer has a learning disability. She took special education classes all of her life. She and her daughter relied on Spencer's mother and brother, with whom they lived, for their basic needs. In 1995 Spencer began taking special education classes at Harold Washington College. Her aunt, Erma Beasley, arranged to have Spencer frequently meet defendant, Erma's husband, at his work place for tutoring. Defendant had sexual intercourse with Spencer regularly during these visits.

On November 8, 1996, while Spencer was sleeping in her bedroom with her five-year-old daughter, defendant came into the room and again had intercourse with Spencer. Several days later, Spencer's daughter told Spencer's cousin, Candice, about the event and acted it out. Candice then questioned Spencer, who eventually told her what had happened. Spencer went to the hospital, where doctors found no physical damage or signs of venereal disease. Spencer refused a rape kit, and she told a nurse she would refuse to press charges.

But the family called police. After interviewing Spencer the police arrested defendant and read him his rights. During the ride to the police station defendant blurted out, "I guess I fucked up. I feel like Mel Reynolds." That night he signed a statement an assistant State's Attorney (ASA) wrote out. In that statement he said Spencer "has always been the outcast of the family because she is slow." He also admitted he knew she was mentally handicapped.

Prosecutors charged defendant with criminal sexual assault in that he had sexual intercourse with Spencer while knowing that she was unable to give knowing consent. 720 ILCS 5/12-13(a)(2) (West 1996).

Defendant moved to quash his arrest and suppress statements. The ASA who took defendant's statement testified that a detective working on the case told her defendant wished to remain silent. Later the same detective told the ASA defendant changed his mind, and he agreed to discuss the matter with the ASA. Defendant presented no other evidence that he ever invoked his right to silence in response to hearing his rights. The arresting officers testified to the information they received from Spencer and Erma Beasley prior to the arrest. The court denied the motion to quash the arrest and granted prosecutors a continuance for presentation of the detective as a witness for the motion to suppress statements. Defendant sought leave to withdraw the motion to suppress.

The judge suggested that defendant could instead rest on the motion because he believed he had sufficient evidence to rule. The judge indicated that he expected the detective's testimony to confirm the ASA's testimony. Defendant did not object to the procedure, nor did defendant claim that the court mischaracterized the expected testimony. The court denied the motion to suppress.

At trial, Spencer testified that when she went to defendant's work place for tutoring he pulled her by her arm into a little room, where he engaged in sexual activities with her. When defendant kissed her, Spencer would tell him to stop but he would not stop. Although she did not want to meet him at work, she continued to go because she feared her aunt Erma, and she did not want to tell her what defendant was doing to her. She spoke to no one about what was happening between her and defendant because he told her that, if she spoke of it, her family would not believe her or would be angry with her. She also feared for her life and her daughter's life.

When defendant came to Spencer's bedroom on November 8, 1996, he first tried to push her daughter out of the room, but she came back in. Defendant unbuttoned Spencer's pants. Spencer pushed defendant's hand away and buttoned her pants back up. Defendant again unbuttoned her pants, pulled them down to her ankles and pulled her underpants down. Spencer pulled her underpants and pants back up and rebuttoned them. Defendant told Spencer to turn around and put her hands on top of the bed. Spencer complied, although she did not want to do so.

Defendant took Spencer's pants down again, put his hand on her back and inserted his penis into her rectum. Spencer did not want defendant to do this and repeatedly told him to stop. After about 20 minutes defendant removed his penis from her rectum and Spencer pulled her pants up.

Leaverntine Lindsey, another of Spencer's aunts, testified that Spencer was not permitted to take her daughter out alone anywhere because of Spencer's short attention span. For safety reasons Spencer was not allowed unsupervised use of the stove or oven.

The court found that defendant took advantage of a mentally handicapped person - a person who was afraid, not necessarily of him, but of the situation. After a hearing on aggravation and mitigation, the court sentenced defendant to 10 years in prison. Defendant moved for a new trial and for a reduced sentence. He did not challenge ...

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