The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Bilandic
Defendant, Russell Stacey, was convicted in the circuit court of Cook County by two separate juries of aggravated criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12-16(d) (West 1994)) and criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12-15(a)(1) (West 1994)), which arose out of separate acts in which defendant grabbed the breasts of two teenage girls. The circuit court sentenced defendant to 25 years' imprisonment for the aggravated criminal sexual abuse conviction and 25 years' imprisonment for the criminal sexual abuse conviction, with the sentences to run consecutively. Defendant appealed to the appellate court challenging his sentences as being excessive. The appellate court affirmed defendant's convictions and sentences. No. 1-98-0307 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We allowed defendant's petition for leave to appeal, which raises only the issue relating to the excessiveness of the sentences. 177 Ill. 2d R. 315. For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the appellate court, and affirm but modify the judgment of the circuit court to impose consecutive six-year terms of imprisonment.
The record of defendant's first trial established that, on May 30, 1995, the then 15-year-old victim, Susy S., was walking to school with her friend, Jillian G., who was 14 years old at the time. Defendant, who was 33 years old at the time, appeared from an alley and began walking toward them, staring at them. When the girls tried to move to one side, defendant moved to the same side. When defendant approached the victim, he forced his hand between her crossed arms and grabbed her breast for a few seconds, until she knocked his arm away. As defendant walked away, he blew her a kiss. The victim proceeded to her friend's house and contacted her mother and the police. Later, the victim went to school and gave a description of defendant to a school police officer. On June 2, 1995, the victim identified defendant at the police station as the man who attacked her.
Defendant testified on his own behalf and denied grabbing Susy S.'s breast. After considering the evidence, the jury found defendant guilty of the aggravated criminal sexual abuse of Susy S.
The record of defendant's second trial established that, on June 2, 1995, the victim, Lisa G., who was 18 years old at the time and attended the same high school as Susy S., was walking by herself to school. As she approached school, defendant walked toward her and stared at her. Defendant then stepped in front of her, blocked her path, grabbed her breast, and squeezed it. After the victim pushed his hand away, defendant blew her a kiss. As the victim turned to get a good look at defendant, he said, "Don't even try it or I will knock the shit out of you." Shortly thereafter, defendant yelled, "Suck my dick," and grabbed his genitals in an obscene manner. The victim proceeded to school, informed a security officer of what had happened, and described defendant. That same day, the victim identified defendant as the offender after he was detained near school during an investigation of the earlier offense.
The record also included the testimony of Monica A. for the limited purpose of presenting evidence of defendant's identification, intent, modus operandi, and absence of accident. In February of 1992, Monica A., who was age 12, was walking to school with her 9-year-old sister when defendant approached her and tried to grab her breast. Monica crossed her arms over her chest and leaned away from defendant. However, when defendant walked along side of her, he grabbed her buttocks for a few seconds and commented that she had a nice "ass." As Monica and her sister walked away, defendant unzipped his pants, pulled out his penis and said, "[H]ey, girls, suck on this." Monica subsequently identified defendant as her attacker in a lineup.
The second jury found defendant guilty of the criminal sexual abuse of Lisa G.
At the sentencing hearing on both convictions, the State presented evidence in aggravation. Chicago police officer Thomas Lynch testified that, on September 8, 1990, he interviewed Betsy C., who was then 11 years old, and Renell G., who was then 27 years old, regarding an investigation of a sexual attack. They stated that, while they were walking down the street, defendant approached them and grabbed Betsy C.'s buttocks. As they tried to walk away, defendant grabbed Renell G.'s breasts. Both Betsy C. and Renell G. subsequently identified defendant as their attacker.
Chicago police officer Walter Siudut testified that, on March 11, 1991, he spoke to 15-year-old Tina S. She indicated to him that, as she was walking to school that morning, a man walked up behind her and grabbed her buttocks. Tina S. later identified defendant's photograph from a photo array.
The State also introduced victim impact statements from Susy S. and Lisa G. Both girls expressed their fears resulting from their encounter with defendant. Susy S. stated that she is afraid to go anywhere alone and is never at ease. Lisa G. indicated that she does not walk anywhere alone, no longer feels safe, and does not trust anyone.
The presentence investigation report, which was presented to the court, set forth defendant's prior convictions for aggravated criminal sexual abuse (1993); assault (1991); criminal sexual abuse (1991); attempted burglary (1990); burglary (1985); retail theft (1983); possession of a stolen motor vehicle (1980); and burglary (1979).
Defense counsel did not present any mitigating witnesses, but argued in mitigation that the nature of defendant's actions did not deserve severe punishment.
After considering the aggravating and mitigating factors, the trial court initially ruled that defendant would be sentenced as a Class X offender in light of his prior felony burglary convictions. The court then indicated that defendant's criminal history showed a propensity to commit the same offense despite attempts by the criminal justice system to deter him from committing such crimes. More specifically, the court referred to the fact that defendant's prior sentences have included counseling, probation, and imprisonment. The court therefore sentenced defendant to 25-year terms of imprisonment ...