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People v. Sanchez

November 04, 2003


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Henry R. Simmons, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wolfson


The trial judge realized he had no choice: he had to sentence the defendant to life in prison. The single question in this case is whether the mandatory natural life sentence violated provisions of the United States and Illinois constitutions.

Following a bench trial, defendant Juan Sanchez, Jr., was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual assault. His mandatory natural life sentence was based on his prior conviction for criminal sexual assault.

On appeal, defendant contends: (1) his sentence violates the proportionate penalties clause of the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §11); (2) the sentence was imposed in violation of his constitutional rights pursuant to the rule announced in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000); and (3) his sentence violates his right to a trial by jury under the Illinois Constitution. We affirm the defendant's conviction and sentence.


The indictment for aggravated criminal sexual assault charged that defendant: "committed an act of sexual penetration upon [Tess T.], to wit: contact between Juan Sanchez's penis and [Tess T.'s] vagina, by the use of force or threat of force and Juan Sanchez caused bodily harm to [Tess T.], to wit: bruising to [Tess T.'s] breast, in violation of Chapter 720 Act 5 Section 12-14(A)(2) of the Illinois Compiled Statutes 1992 as amended."

At trial, Tess T. testified she was 13 years old at the time of the incident. On January 4, 1999, she was with her father at his store in the mall. Defendant, whom Tess knew as a friend of the family, came and asked her to go with him to drop something off. She went with him, and, after a while, defendant parked the car. He tried to kiss Tess twice, but she pushed him away and told him no. The third time, he got on top of her and unfastened her pants and pulled down her pants and underwear. He put his fingers in her vagina and lifted up her shirt and started sucking on her breast. Defendant then put his penis in her vagina. She tried to push him off but was not able to do so.

After defendant stopped, Tess put her clothes on and jumped in the back seat, and defendant drove away. When she recognized where she was, Tess jumped out of the car and ran back to the mall. She did not tell her father what happened because she was afraid of what he might do. When they got home, Tess told her mother what happened and they went to the hospital and the police station.

Cynthia T., Tess's mother, testified that Tess called her up to her bedroom immediately after arriving home. Tess started crying and told Cynthia what happened. Cynthia then called 9-11, and an ambulance came to take Tess to the hospital.

Dr. Mark Chionis testified that he examined Tess at Edwards Hospital in Naperville, Illinois. She told him she was in an automobile and a person got on top of her, pulled down his pants and underwear and pulled down her underwear, and she felt pain in the vaginal area. She also said the person "aggressively kissed her breasts and nipple area." The physical examination revealed bruising around both nipple areas. There was extensive redness and bruising of the perineal area surrounding the vagina. The opening of the vagina was red and bruised.

Dr. Chionis said the pelvic examination was very difficult because the patient was in severe pain. He noticed a whitish discharge inside the vaginal vault and took a swab of her vaginal area. Dr. Chionis said the kissing would have to be very aggressive to have caused the bruising on her breasts. The bruises also could have been caused by being held down.

Chicago Police Officer Ivira Torres testified she had a conversation with Tess, who told her she had been raped. Tess's demeanor was shaken up and timid. Officer Torres said she did not recall if Tess told her she jumped out of defendant's car. The parties stipulated that vaginal swabs taken from Tess and a stain on her underwear tested positive for semen. Barbara Wilson, a DNA analyst, testified that a male DNA profile from the vaginal swabs and semen stain from the underwear matched the DNA profile of defendant.

Defendant gave a statement at the police station to Assistant State's Attorney Luke Sheridan that was memorialized in a handwritten statement and read into the record.

In the statement, defendant said he had known Tess and her father for five years. On January 4, 1999, he saw Tess at the mall and asked her to go "cruising" around. She met him at the back of the mall, and they drove around for awhile. Then defendant parked the car and began kissing Tess and "rubbing up" on her. Tess was kissing him and rubbing his chest and stomach. He lifted up her sweater and bra and started kissing and sucking her breasts. Tess told him she was 13 years old and a virgin but did not tell him to stop. Defendant had sex with Tess. Defendant then drove Tess back to the mall. At the end of the statement, defendant added that Tess wanted to continue the relationship.

The defendant did not testify at trial. The trial judge found defendant guilty of aggravated criminal sexual assault.

At the sentencing hearing, defendant's father testified in mitigation. Defendant's attorney argued that defendant had changed his life since he had been imprisoned, had gotten involved in a Christian deck of the jail, and wanted to help others. Defendant had a troubled family life; his mother abused alcohol. In aggravation, the State argued that defendant was found guilty in May 1996 of criminal sexual assault of a five-year-old child and placed on intensive probation for three years. He had failed to complete the probation when he committed the present crime. The State asked the judge to follow the statutory guidelines and sentence defendant to natural life.

Defendant spoke in allocution. He read a letter he wrote saying he was involved in the Cook County jail's Life Learning Program based on Christian living and had changed his life. He was 23 years old, and he recognized he had made bad choices in his life. He had a ...

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