Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit LaSalle County, Illinois No. 00-CF-93 Honorable H. Chris Ryan Judge, Presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Lytton
Defendant Lisa Muzzarelli was charged with two counts of forgery under the Illinois Criminal Code of 1961. 720 ILCS 5/17-3(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2000). She was found guilty on both counts. We affirm.
In 1999, Lisa Muzzarelli was convicted of retail theft. Prior to her sentencing hearing, the trial judge, James Lanuti, received a letter asking him for leniency in her sentencing. The letter was on a school letterhead, appeared to be signed by a teacher at the school and stated that Muzzarelli was a gifted teacher whom the school district did not wish to lose. After Muzzarelli was sentenced, the prosecutor discovered that the letter was unauthorized. During a subsequent investigation, Muzzarelli admitted to a police investigator that she had written the letter herself.
Muzzarelli was then charged with two counts of forgery pursuant to the Illinois Criminal Code. 720 ILCS 5/17-3(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2000). She was tried on both counts. At the close of the prosecution's case, Muzzarelli filed motions to dismiss the charge and for a directed verdict. The trial court denied both motions, and the jury found Muzzarelli guilty on both counts of the indictment.
Muzzarelli argues that the letter on which these charges were based is not a document that can be the basis of a forgery charge. She first contends that the use of the word "defraud" in the forgery statute only applies to attempts to obtain economic gain. She also asserts that the letter is outside the scope of the crime of forgery because it does not affect a legal right or obligation.
To establish the offense of forgery, the State must prove that a defendant (1) had an intent to defraud; (2) knowingly made or altered a document; (3) did so in such a manner that the document purported to have been made by another; and (4) that the document was apparently capable of defrauding another. 720 ILCS 5/17-3 (West 2000). Muzzarelli admits that she made the letter in such a manner that it purported to be made by another. However, she contends the other elements of the crime could not be proved.
Muzzarelli argues that the word "defraud" must be defined with reference to the common law definition of fraud. She states that under the common law, fraud requires some kind of legally recognized injury, such as financial injury or property loss. See Glazewski v. Coronet Insurance Co., 108 Ill. 2d 243, 254, 483 N.E.2d 1263, 1268 (1985). Since her letter to Judge Lanuti could not affect any property or monetary interest, she argues that she could not be convicted of forgery.
"Intent to defraud" in the forgery statute is defined as "an intention to cause another to assume, create, transfer, alter or terminate any right, obligation or power with reference to any person or property." 720 ILCS 5/17-3(b) (West 2000). A "document apparently capable of defrauding another" is one that "includes, but is not limited to, one by which any right, obligation or power with reference to any person or property may be created, transferred, altered or terminated." 720 ILCS 5/17-3(c) (West 2000).
A legislative body has the power to articulate reasonable definitions of terms within a statute and may broaden or narrow the meaning that terms otherwise would have. People v. Johnson, 231 Ill. App. 3d 412, 419-22, 595 N.E.2d 1381, 1387-88 (1992). When the General Assembly has defined the terms relating to fraud, a court cannot look beyond the statute to determine what it means to "inten[d] to defraud" or for ...