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People v. Chandler

April 16, 2001


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. Nos. 98--CF--2812; 98--CF--2818 Honorable Philip L. DiMarzio, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Bowman

Defendant, Brian Chandler, pleaded guilty to arson (720 ILCS 5/20--1(a) (West 1998)) and aggravated battery (720 ILCS 5/12--4(a) (West 1998)). The court sentenced him to consecutive six- and three-year terms of imprisonment. Defendant appeals, contending that the court abused its discretion by (1) imposing a six-year sentence for arson and (2) making the sentences consecutive. In a supplemental brief, defendant argues that the consecutive sentences were improper under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000).

Defendant pleaded guilty to a series of offenses committed against his estranged wife, Ann Marie Chandler. Ann Marie testified at the sentencing hearing that on October 31, 1998, after an altercation with defendant, she moved out of the parties' home on Randall Road. She obtained an order of protection against defendant. Later, she and the parties' children moved into a new home on West Plum Street.

On November 20, she took the children to the Randall Road home to visit defendant. Defendant got in her car and asked if they could work things out. When she said no, defendant grabbed her hair and punched her in the face. He then kept her in the house for several hours arguing with her. The following day, defendant showed up at Ann Marie's Plum Street house. He saw a truck in the driveway and accused her of being with another man. After she denied it, defendant said, "I'm coming back in 20 minutes to destroy you."

On November 22, Ann Marie called defendant to arrange to pick up the girls from visitation. Defendant said he wanted to move in with her because he would soon be evicted from the Randall Road house. Ann Marie said that he could not move in. Defendant replied that if she did not let him move in with her, he would "torture [her] for two days while [she] begged him to kill [her]," and would eventually kill her after two days.

The following morning, when Ann Marie went to take her children to school, she discovered that a tire on her car was flat. She had the tire replaced and left. When she returned, she discovered that a different tire had been cut. She reported the incidents to the police and went to work. At 9 p.m., an officer called to tell her that the Plum Street home was on fire.

As part of the factual basis for defendant's pleas, the prosecutor stated that defendant returned to the Plum Street house around 7:15 p.m. on November 23. He entered the house by breaking a window, poured gasoline in the living room and, after checking to ensure that no one was home, set the gasoline on fire. The Aurora police arrested defendant the next day, and he confessed to slashing Ann Marie's tires, violating the order of protection, and setting her house on fire.

Shortly after these incidents, Ann Marie quit her job and left the state. She testified that after the move her older daughter earned lower grades, had difficulty sleeping, and had become aggressive, abusive, and suicidal. At the time of the sentencing hearing, the daughter was in therapy.

The presentence report shows that defendant had prior convictions of illegal transportation of alcohol, driving with a suspended license, and driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). Other evidence at the hearing reflected defendant's problems with drugs and alcohol. Greg Fields, a case manager with Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities, opined that defendant was addicted to alcohol and cocaine. Defendant had attempted suicide several times and was taking psychotropic medication.

Defendant testified that he had been abusing alcohol since age 18. As a result of the DUI conviction, the court ordered him to undergo alcohol treatment. He went to the first class drunk and eventually stopped attending classes when he concluded that they were a "sham." He never thought of himself as an alcoholic.

Defendant said that after surgery in 1996 he stopped working and stayed home with his children. He cared for the children while his wife worked. He said that he committed the offenses while drunk and he never actually meant to hurt anyone. He cried when he found out that his daughter had been traumatized by his actions. He further testified, "I seen myself in the mirror and punched myself in the face till both my eyes were closed and I could just see no more."

Wade Thompson, a mental health worker at the Kane County jail, testified that defendant was placed on a suicide watch at the jail. He attempted suicide several times. Defendant told Thompson that he was angry because Ann Marie had lied about him and that, because she had lied, she had given herself "the death penalty." Defendant said that if he ever got probation he would "go get her."

The court sentenced defendant to six years' imprisonment for arson and three years' imprisonment for aggravated battery. The court ordered the sentences to be served consecutively, finding that defendant would continue to be a danger to Ann Marie. The court imposed sentences for additional misdemeanors, with those sentences to be served concurrently with the felony sentences and with each other. After the court denied his motion to reconsider the sentences, defendant perfected this appeal.

Defendant first contends that the six-year sentence for arson failed to account for his rehabilitative potential and, accordingly, was an abuse of discretion. He argues that he had an insignificant criminal history, that the offenses were the result of a momentary loss of ...

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