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People v. Watkins

October 10, 2001

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
RONALD L. WATKINS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. Nos. 98--CF--1246, 99--CF--749 Honorable Ronald B. Mehling, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Byrne.

As amendeed October 31, 2001.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
RONALD L. WATKINS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. Nos. 98--CF--1246, 99--CF--749 Honorable Ronald B. Mehling, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Byrne.

PUBLISHED

 Pursuant to a plea negotiation, defendant, Ronald L. Watkins, pleaded guilty to one count of retail theft (720 ILCS 5/16A--10(a) (West 1998)) in case No. 98--CF--1246 ('98 offense) and to one count of retail theft in case No. 99--CF--749 ('99 offense). Defendant was sentenced to two consecutive three-year terms of imprisonment. Thereafter, defendant filed motions to vacate the pleas and to reconsider the sentences, which were subsequently denied. Defendant contends on appeal that the sentences (1) are improperly enhanced; (2) violate Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000); and (3) are excessive. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

The relevant facts may be briefly stated. In 1998, defendant was charged by indictment with retail theft for allegedly stealing merchandise valued at $22.98 from a Sears store. In 1999, while out on bond for the '98 offense, defendant was indicted with, inter alia, retail theft for stealing merchandise totaling less than $150 from a Dominicks store.

Defendant pleaded guilty to both offenses at one hearing. During the factual basis hearing for both the '98 and '99 offenses, the State introduced, without objection, a prior '93 conviction as the basis for enhancing each respective retail theft charge to a Class 4 felony. The court informed defendant that both cases were Class 4 felonies, punishable by terms of imprisonment of one to three years and a one-year period of mandatory supervised release. Defendant indicated that he understood the charges and possible penalties. The State noted that, because the '99 offense was committed while defendant was out on bond for the '98 offense, it was mandatory that the sentences be served consecutively. After the court explained the differences between sentences and admonished that consecutive sentences were required, defendant indicated that he was still willing to plead guilty to both offenses. Thereafter, the court noted that defendant had signed a jury waiver in open court, that the pleas were being entered into freely and voluntarily, and that there was a factual basis for accepting the pleas.

The court then entered findings of guilt and judgments of conviction on both offenses.

Evidence presented at the sentencing hearing indicated that the 45-year-old defendant had an extensive criminal history, consisting mostly of retail thefts and thefts. In addition, defendant had a hearing impairment and had used cocaine or heroin "on an almost daily basis" since the age of 17. The court noted that it considered defendant's statement, the non-violent nature of the crimes, defendant's acknowledgment of guilt, and his recent efforts to address his drug problem. The court also considered defendant's "history and character," as well as "his current status." The court found that it was indisputable that defendant was a drug addict and that there was a relationship between defendant's addiction and the crimes he committed.

However, after considering the testimony of defendant and the Treatment Alternatives for Safe Communities (TASC) report, the court believed that there was no likelihood that defendant could be rehabilitated. The court concluded that a period of incarceration was necessary to protect the public and that probation would be inconsistent with the ends of justice and would deprecate the seriousness of defendant's conduct. The court sentenced defendant to two three-year terms of imprisonment "to run consecutively."

On January 13, 2000, defendant filed pro se motions to withdraw his pleas. On April 19, 2000, new defense counsel filed a superceding motion to withdraw the plea under the '99 offense and also filed Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (188 Ill. 2d R. 604(d)) ...


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