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People v. Lamon

February 13, 2004


[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois No. 02-CF-28. Honorable Thomas G. Ebel Judge, Presiding

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

[8]  Following a jury trial, defendant Andrew Lamon was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(2) (West 2002)) and unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. 720 ILCS 570/401 (West 2002). He was sentenced to an extended term of 30 years' imprisonment for the aggravated criminal sexual assault conviction and a term of 5 years on the unlawful possession offense, sentences to run concurrently. Defendant does not challenge his drug conviction but raises three issues on appeal relating to his sexual assault conviction: (1) whether the evidence adduced at trial was sufficient to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) whether he was denied a fair trial because the jury had been improperly influenced by an allegedly prejudicial newspaper article; and (3) whether he was denied his right to a fair trial by the State's alleged knowing use of the victim's allegedly perjured testimony. We affirm.

[9]  FACTS

[10]   The victim, testified for the State that she and defendant had been in a long-term intimate relationship which had ended in September of 2001. On January 6, 2002, the night in question, defendant paid a "surprise" visit to her residence at about 5 p.m. She testified that she and her children finished dinner at 6:30 p.m. and then she went upstairs to her bedroom where defendant had been waiting.

[11]   She testified that once upstairs, defendant grabbed her by her hair and called her a "whore." He accused her of "cheating" and demanded to know the identity of her lover. Defendant then placed her daughter in another room and closed the bedroom door. The victim further testified that defendant forced her to lie on her back on the bedroom floor where he stood over her and urinated on her. Next, he told her to take her clothes off. She complied. Defendant subsequently tied her wrists with an electrical cord, placed a sock in her mouth, and taped her mouth shut. Defendant told her: "You better not scream and make the kids come to the door." If the victim did not comply, she "would not live to see the next day." A beating ensued in which defendant struck the victim several times with a wire coat hanger. She testified that after the beating, she was forced to perform oral sex on defendant. Defendant also raped her anally until he ejaculated. She stated that shortly after the assault, "[defendant] laid down. Then he got back up and he untied me, and he told me to lay in the bed and not to move." According to the victim, the whole incident only lasted 20 minutes.

[12]   The victim recounted that she remained in bed with defendant for approximately four hours. While defendant was sound asleep, she drove to a Peoria police station where she was interviewed by several police officers.

[13]   She talked to Officer Katherine Baer while she was at the police station. Baer observed the victim in an agitated state, with a cut above her eye and bruises on her wrist. Officer Brad Hutchinson was present at the interview. He also testified at the trial. He noticed that the victim looked very upset. He opined that the injuries on her wrists were consistent with "being tied up." The pictures of the victim taken soon after the incident also show bruised areas around her breast and right shoulder.

[14]   After the preliminary interview, Officers Baer and Buchanan and the victim all returned to the house to investigate her allegations. Upon arriving at the residence, the officers went to the upper floor and found defendant sitting in his bed. The officers searched the bedroom and found items similar to those described by the victim as having been in the room in which the attack occurred.

[15]   Officer Buchanan testified that he arrested defendant and took him to a police vehicle. At that moment, defendant told him: "That bitch is selling heroin and she has some in my coat right now." Defendant then described a dark trench coat inside the victim's closet. After securing defendant inside the vehicle, Buchanan and other officers reentered the bedroom and checked the coat. Upon searching the pockets of the coat, Buchanan discovered heroin.

[16]   Officer Richard Ledbetter testified that he spoke with defendant at the police station in the early morning hours of January 7, 2002. Defendant told him that he understood his rights and then related to Officer Ledbetter his version of the events. He admitted that he had lost his temper and had hit the victim during an argument. Officer Ledbetter asked defendant if the sex was consensual and was told by defendant, "[s]he liked her sex rough and she did not resist being tied up."

[17]   The victim was taken to an emergency room later that morning. Sally Gniepentrog, an emergency room nurse, testified that she treated the woman in the emergency room on the morning of January 7. The victim told her that she had been raped. Gniepentrog gathered evidence for a sexual assault kit. According to Gniepentrog, defendant's sperm was found on an anal swab taken from the victim. She also had bruising to her body, including around her left breast and on her right wrist.

[18]   On January 19, 2002, in a notarized letter to the prosecutor, the victim recanted the allegations against defendant and instead claimed the sex was consensual. In the letter, she explained that she made up the story because "[w]e had an argument *** and things got out of hand." Her letter concluded that "[t]he things that I said and written about in my statement was done in an angry state." In her direct testimony, the victim explained: "I had typed [the recantation letter], because [defendant] took $700.00 from me and he said he'd give me my money back."

[19]   The State presented additional testimony on this subject. According to Mr. Michael Hirsh, an investigator for the Peoria County State's Attorney's office, the victim wrote the letter of recantation due to continued pressure from defendant. She told Hirsh that defendant continued to call her from jail in order to force a recantation letter to be written, and that "she would do just about anything to have [those] phone calls stopped."

[20]   On cross-examination, the victim stated that the sexual assault lasted approximately an hour. She admitted that during her initial interview with the police, she did not say that defendant had sexually assaulted her or raped her. She told Officer Baer that she had been sexually assaulted only after the police had discovered heroin in defendant's trench coat. She further testified that her recantation resulted from pressure exerted on her by defendant and his brother-in-law.

[21]   Defendant testified on his own behalf and he told a story that was different in significant ways from the victim's. He first stated that the victim was his common law wife. Two children were born to this "marriage." Defendant also related to the jury that he "had cheated on [the victim] with Felicia Smith," a heroin addict. He further claimed that the victim and her cousin "beat Smith with a bat." He admitted that his relationship with the victim was "really shaky," but they "were basically trying to reconcile and get it stricken [sic] back to where it was." Defendant's testimony substantially corroborated the nature of his physical attack on the victim. He denied, however, that the attack occurred before the sexual assault. Defendant testified that he had sex with her on the night in question, but it was consensual--he did not rape her. Defendant insisted he and the victim fell asleep after sex and got into an argument about her infidelities after they awoke. He then admitted the following:

[22]   "I hit [her], I urinated on [her], and I hit her with the clothes hanger, put a sock in her mouth, put tape around her mouth. I asked [her] about the relationship that she was having. She just wouldn't tell me. That was more pertinent than anything on this earth for me, not because of some jealousy as it was portrayed here, it's a hell of a lot more than that."

[23]   During the trial--on the day before closing arguments--an article appeared on the local state page of the ...

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