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People v. Taylor

January 30, 2004

[5] THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
RICHARD T. TAYLOR, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



[6] Appeal from Circuit Court of Adams County No. 01CF374 Honorable Richard D. Greenlief, Judge Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

[8]  In April 2002, a jury convicted defendant, Richard T. Taylor, of criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-13(a)(2) (West 2000)) for committing an act of sexual penetration on the victim, N.C., by placing his fingers in her vagina while she was unable to give consent because she was asleep. The trial court later sentenced him to seven years in prison.

[9]  Defendant appeals, arguing that (1) the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) he was denied a fair trial when the trial court admitted evidence that he had refused to make a tape-recorded statement for the police; (3) he was denied a fair trial when the prosecutor referred to him as a "predator" during closing argument; and (4) the court failed to properly admonish him regarding his appeal rights in accordance with Supreme Court Rule 605(a) (Official Reports Advance Sheet No. 21 (October 17, 2001), R. 605(a), eff. October 1, 2001). We affirm and remand with directions.

[10]   I. BACKGROUND

[11]   At defendant's April 2002 jury trial, N.C. testified that in September 2001, she and her son, Gabriel, moved into a house at 621 N. 13th Street in Quincy. Gabriel's father was defendant's son, Rick Taylor. Although N.C. and Rick were no longer romantically involved, defendant and his wife, Diane Taylor, maintained a relationship with N.C. and Gabriel. Defendant and Diane often took care of Gabriel when N.C. worked nights, and defendant stopped by frequently to help N.C. with household repairs, such as installing a ceiling fan and a lock on the front door. Diane and N.C. worked at the same local bar.

[12]   In October 2001, N.C. was romantically involved with Tony Magliochetti. At that time, Tony was attending college in Macomb. On weekends, he would often return to Quincy and stay with N.C. for the weekend.

[13]   On Friday night, October 12, 2001, N.C. did not expect that Tony would be visiting, but occasionally he came to Quincy even though he had not initially planned to do so. N.C. was scheduled to work from 4 until 10 p.m., and Gabriel was staying with a friend in the neighborhood. N.C. had planned to pick up both Gabriel and his friend after work so they could spend the night at her house. However, N.C. had to work later than planned, and when she arrived to pick up Gabriel and his friend, they were asleep. N.C. and Gabriel's friend's mother decided to leave the boys where they were.

[14]   N.C. returned home, and then around 11 p.m., she went to a birthday party at another friend's house. N.C. had two glasses of beer at the party and went home around 1:30 a.m. When N.C. arrived home, she locked the front door and turned off the lights. She then went into her bedroom and closed the door. She went to bed wearing only a big sweatshirt.

[15]   N.C. was later awakened by the feeling of someone's fingers inside her vagina and one of her legs being pushed so as to spread her legs apart. She then felt a mouth on her vagina. She reached down and felt the head of the person in bed with her. When N.C. realized the hair did not feel like Tony's (a short "buzz" cut), she jumped out of bed. She then saw defendant sit up, and she started screaming at him to get out. However, defendant just sat there. As N.C. continued to scream, defendant got up and left the bedroom, closing the door behind him. N.C. picked up her cordless phone and got back under the covers. Defendant then walked back into the bedroom and pulled the covers off of the bed. N.C. thought he was going to kill her and started screaming again for him to get out. Defendant said, "I'm drunk," and then left. After she heard defendant leave, she went to the front door and locked it. Then she got back in bed and called her sister, Susan Moore. She was upset and crying, and she told Susan that defendant came into her room.

[16]   Approximately five minutes after she got off the phone, Susan arrived at N.C.'s house. Susan called their cousin, Chad, and then the police. When asked why she did not call the police herself, N.C. replied, "[b]ecause I didn't know what I should do first, because it was going to affect so many people." She recalled that the incident occurred around 4 a.m.

[17]   About 15 minutes later, Quincy police officer Gabe Vanderbol arrived. N.C. was not immediately able to talk with him because she was embarrassed and scared. After she told him what happened, Vanderbol drove N.C. and Susan to the hospital. They arrived at the hospital shortly after 5 a.m.

[18]   N.C. further testified that a couple of nights before the incident, defendant telephoned her and told her that he had left a surprise for her in her mailbox. She did not retrieve it that night. The next morning, he called again and asked if she had received the package, and she said she had not. He then told her it contained edible underwear. N.C. felt embarrassed and did not know what to say. Defendant said it was "just a joke." N.C. later retrieved the package and put it in a kitchen drawer without opening it. She never discussed with defendant her feelings about receiving the underwear because she wanted it to be forgotten. She acknowledged that the day after receiving the package, she went with defendant to buy a computer desk, which he then set up at her house.

[19]   N.C. also acknowledged that about one year earlier, on the dance floor at a wedding reception, defendant had said something about going back to a hotel with him. N.C. believed he was joking.

[20]   N.C. further testified that during the October 13, 2001, incident, she never gave defendant consent to touch her or penetrate her. She did not consent to defendant's entering her house that morning. N.C. denied giving defendant a key to her house. However, she did not know with certainty that he did not have one. She also denied (1) ever offering any physical or sexual contact to defendant, and (2) having an intimate physical relationship with him.

[21]   N.C. further denied knowing as far back as the wedding reception that defendant had personal feelings toward her. She never made any sexual advances toward defendant. She acknowledged that she did not feel threatened by defendant prior to the incident.

[22]   N.C. knew that Diane was out of town on the weekend of the incident, but she denied that she had agreed to meet defendant after work on Friday night to go dancing at Backwaters, an after-hours club. N.C. did not remember having a conversation with defendant about a week earlier, during which he offered to have sex with her and she replied that she would keep that in mind. She had no plans to go dancing with defendant on that Friday night; she had told defendant that she had arranged to take Gabriel and his friend home with her that night.

[23]   Vanderbol testified that around 5:05 a.m. on October 13, 2001, he was dispatched to N.C.'s house. Susan answered the door, and Vanderbol was not initially able to talk to N.C. When Vanderbol spoke with N.C., she was "visibly distraught" and "upset about something." He further described N.C. as follows: "She was crying, there were tears that I could see rolling down her face. She--I asked her if, you know, what was the matter, and she then began to cry very loudly and started taking in deep breaths in order to--while she was crying." After two or three minutes, she was able to talk to Vanderbol about what had happened. At times she had difficulty composing herself to answer his questions. After they talked, he transported N.C. and Susan to the emergency room.

[24]   Later that morning, Vanderbol interviewed defendant at the police station. Vanderbol read defendant his rights, and defendant acknowledged that he understood them and agreed to talk with Vanderbol. When Vanderbol asked defendant if he had gone anywhere in the early morning hours, defendant said that he had been drinking at the Elks Lodge and then went straight home. When Vanderbol asked him how much he had had to drink, defendant said "too much." (Vanderbol detected a "strong odor of alcoholic beverage" on defendant.) After Vanderbol told defendant that he had information indicating that defendant had not gone straight home, defendant admitted that he had gone to N.C.'s house.

[25]   Defendant told Vanderbol that N.C.'s front door was shut but not locked, and he only had to push it and it opened. He did not have a key. Once inside, he yelled for N.C. but did not hear a response. He went into Gabriel's room and found that Gabriel was not there. He then went into N.C.'s room and yelled her name again. (He did not indicate to Vanderbol whether she responded.) The room was very dark. He made his way over to the bed and could feel that N.C. was lying on it. He shook N.C., and she did not wake up. He then got underneath the comforter and kissed N.C. on the belly, put his finger inside her vagina, and kissed her vagina. He acknowledged that he had to spread N.C.'s legs apart. When Vanderbol asked him if he had licked her vagina, he said that he had only kissed it. After he kissed N.C. on the vagina, she woke up and told him that he had to leave. He acknowledged that he returned to the bedroom and pulled the covers off of N.C. "to apologize." He said to N.C., "I'm sorry, I am drunk, I'm drunk."

[26]   Vanderbol further testified that defendant "stated that the whole incident was stupid and that it should not have happened. He stated that he thought that he was going to lose his job and his wife over the incident and that he was drunk and that it should not have happened." Defendant did not (1) say anything to Vanderbol about how he and N.C. had prearranged this encounter, (2) comment on any intimate relationship between them, or (3) say that N.C. had been making sexual advances or leading him on. At the end of the interview, defendant said to Vanderbol, "She's really pretty, isn't she?"

[27]   Defendant testified that after N.C. moved into her 13th Street house, he visited two to three times a week, mainly to do repairs. Most of the time when he stopped by N.C.'s house, she would be wearing a T-shirt and cutoff shorts. On one occasion, she wore a T-shirt that said "you do me, and then you can do me again." Defendant further testified as follows regarding that occasion:

[28]   "A. *** I asked her at that time if, how her mother felt about her wearing that type of T-shirt. And she had informed me that her mother doesn't understand. She wouldn't even know what that meant. And then I told her that, well, I sure know what it means.

[29]   Q. And what was her reaction to that?

[30]   A. She just kind of looked at me and smiled and then went on.

[31]   Q. Did you have other conversations with her?

[32]   A. Yes. ***

[33]   As she was leaving, I was still there putting the light in. *** I told her at that time that I was not--that I was serious about what I said about the T-shirt to her, and she looked at me as she was going out the door and said she'd keep that in mind. Then she left.

[34]   Q. And did you have other conversations with her of a sexual nature?

[35]   A. We had talked one time--I mean, we had talked several times about it. I mean, I told her probably four or five times on different occasions that I would do her, and that was [sic] my words.

[36]   Q. And based upon what you observed from her, did she understand what you said?

[37]   A. Yeah, she just smiled at me on three or four of the occasions. One time she did make the comment that, you know, that would be crazy. And I said, yes, but I'm crazy for you. And then she just smiled at me, and that was it."

[38]   Defendant stated that this kind of conduct occurred between them for about a year prior to the week of October 6, 2001. N.C. never told him that she was not interested in him. Defendant also testified that the way N.C. dressed was "not necessarily arousing" but he considered it "as possibly coming on to me" or creating a "coming-on mood."

[39]   Defendant further testified that he put the edible underwear in N.C.'s mailbox on a Sunday and called N.C. that night and told her he had left something for her. When he called her Monday morning, she said that "she better get it out of there because she didn't want the mailman to think that she left them in there for him." He sent N.C. the edible underwear "just to get her reaction from previous conversations that [they] had" about "sexual advances." After that incident, N.C. did not exhibit any fear of defendant or have an out-of-the-ordinary reaction to him.

[40]   On Thursday, October 11, 2001, defendant and N.C. went to Wal-Mart to buy a computer table. While they were putting the desk together, defendant "told her that I was going to come by Friday night, and we would go late-night dancing at the new club after she got off work." When asked what her response was, defendant testified, "Only thing she said is, we are?"

[41]   On Friday, October 12, 2001, defendant went home after work and showered. Around 5 or 5:30 p.m., he went to Jim's bar, where he met his friend, Gene Johnson. About an hour later, Johnson and defendant left Jim's and dropped defendant's car off at his home. Then they took Johnson's car to the Elk's Lodge. They had a few beers and left between 9:30 and 10 p.m. Johnson dropped off defendant at home.

[42]   Around 11 p.m., defendant left his home to go by N.C.'s and see if she was home from work. When he got to her house, he did not see her car and proceeded to the "Sixth and J Tavern." He stayed at the tavern, drinking beer, until it closed at 1 a.m. He then drove to Backwaters' parking lot and looked for N.C.'s car, but he did not find it. He drove back to N.C.'s house and saw that her car was there.

[43]   Defendant walked up to the front door and found it unlocked. He was not surprised by this, because he thought N.C. knew he was going to come by. He knocked on the door and then went into the house. Once inside, he said, "[N.C.], are you home?" but did not hear any reply. The lights were off, although some light was coming from Gabriel's room. He was not expecting Gabriel to be there, but did not think it was strange that light was coming from his room because Gabriel's night-lights were often left on all the time. Defendant then knocked on N.C.'s bedroom door, opened it, and entered the room. There was no reply from N.C. to his knock. He believed they had prearranged to meet there. He walked toward the bed and said, "Are you in here, [N.C.]?" He then reached down and felt her on the bed. He shook her a little bit and said, "Are you ready for me, [N.C.]?" N.C. did not respond. Defendant pulled the covers away from the pillow that was between N.C.'s legs, and said, "[N.C.], we're going to have to remove this pillow first." Then he grabbed her right knee, and started to push it up to pull the pillow out from between her legs. When he did that, her left leg also moved, and he removed the pillow. He bent over and kissed the inside of her left thigh and then raised up and said, "Are you ready for me? Are you ready for me now, [N.C.]?" She replied, "Yes, that feels good." Then he put his hand between her legs and rubbed her vagina.

[44]   Then he bent over and kissed the inside of her leg again and started moving his way up between her legs. He continued rubbing her vaginal area, and N.C. started "humping" his hand. He put his head under the covers and started to kiss her belly. He then felt her hand on his shoulder, pushing him down toward her vagina. He resisted, and she put her hand on his head and said, "More. That feels good." He then put his finger inside N.C.'s vagina. After she put her hand on his head, she suddenly moved away and said, "Just go home," in a regular tone of voice. Defendant was "kind of startled" and sat on the side of the bed. He said, "What's wrong, [N.C.]?," and N.C. said, "Just please leave." He said, "I don't understand. You told me to go ahead." She said "Just please go home." Defendant left the bedroom and shut the door. He then left the house, but returned within 5 or 10 minutes because he wanted to talk to N.C. to see what the problem was. Defendant went back into the bedroom where there were still no lights on and pulled the covers back. He said, "[N.C.], can we talk about this?" N.C. then got out of the bed with the covers wrapped around her and told defendant to "get the fuck out." Defendant testified that he "told her I was sorry. I was drunk. I was sorry, but she told me to do it. Then I left."

[45]   Defendant further testified that at the time, he did not know that there was anything criminally wrong with what he was doing. He did not believe that he did anything to which N.C. did not consent. He estimated that he was at N.C.'s house between 1:30 and 1:45 a.m. on October 13, ...


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