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People v. Schickel

March 31, 2004


[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 00 CR 20189 Honorable Stanley Sacks, Judge Presiding.

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

[8]  The defendant, Ronald Schickel, Jr., was indicted for first and second degree murder, felony murder based upon mob action, and aggravated battery. Prior to trial, the State dismissed all counts against the defendant with the exception of the felony murder charge.

[9]  After a bench trial, the defendant was found not guilty of felony murder and the predicate felony of mob action, but was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter as a lesser included offense. Consequently, he was sentenced to 4 1/2 years' imprisonment. On appeal, he argues that his conviction should be reversed because involuntary manslaughter is not a lesser included offense of felony murder. Because we find that defense counsel's and defendant's actions before the trial court indicate a waiver of this issue, we affirm.

[10]   The facts of this case surround the well-publicized events following two wedding receptions on August 5, 2000, at the William Tell Holiday Inn in Countryside, Illinois. Before the night was over, a chaotic melee involving approximately 25 to 30 guests of both wedding receptions erupted in the hotel lobby. As a result of that mass altercation, many people were seriously injured, and one victim, Michael Chambers, lost his life.

[11]   At trial, multiple witnesses were called to relate the events of that evening. The trouble began, it appears, around midnight in and around the hotel lobby and bar. Apparently, the defendant and co-defendant, Timothy Brogan *fn1 , along with 10 to 15 other people, were lined up against one of the hallways that led from the lobby to the bar. While other guests would walk past, the individuals in the hall began harassing them, making lewd comments to female guests, and verbally challenging the male guests to fight. During this time, one of the guests told the bartender to call security after he had been called numerous names by the men in the hallway. After hotel security was called to control the situation, co-defendant Brogan identified himself to security officers as a Cook County sheriff and asserted that the situation was under control. It was not.

[12]   At approximately that time, physical altercations began breaking out in the area outside the bar and near the lobby. According to some witnesses, the situation was "unbelievable." Things in the lobby were smashed, furniture was turned over, and people were crying. One of the wedding guests, Mr. Lange, saw five to eight men on the top of the back of another wedding guest, Mr. Rademacher, who was lying on the ground on his hands and knees. After Mr. Lange realized that Mr. Rademacher was being choked and could not breathe, he attempted to intervene. In response, Mr. Lange was kicked in the face, his glasses split his nose open, and he was tossed toward a windowsill, which cut his head. At that time Mr. Rademacher stood up after being released from the choke hold, and was immediately hit from behind by co-defendant Brogan, who slammed him against a wall and held him for approximately 15 seconds.

[13]   After Mr. Rademacher's wife slapped co-defendant and yelled at him while he was holding her husband, the co-defendant said,"I'm a cop, my name is Tim, I'm a cop." Co-defendant then released Mr. Rademacher from the window and forcibly took him to a bench in the hallway. In response to Mrs. Rademacher's inquiry as to whether co-defendant was going to arrest her husband, he said, "No, but if he gets off the bench, I'll kill him."

[14]   While this was occurring, Michael Chambers returned through the hotel lobby after he had bought some hamburgers at a nearby White Castle. As he was entering the hotel, the men who were lined up against the wall were still harassing some women. According to testimony, Mr. Chambers attempted to get the women away from the men, telling everyone to "go home." At that point, co-defendant Brogan told the victim to "back off motherf-----," and he and the defendant pushed and punched the victim in the face. After the defendant hit Mr. Chambers, Mr. Chambers attempted to flee into the lobby, but he was grabbed by the men in the hallway, who pulled him into the vestibule by his neck, got on top of him, and kicked and beat him.

[15]   At that point, security guards who witnessed co-defendant Brogan pushing Mr. Chambers attempted to get people off of Mr. Chambers, who was now at the bottom of a pile. While they were able to get him to stand, co-defendant Brogan still had him in a headlock, and both tumbled into the vestibule area. Immediately thereafter, Countryside police arrived, and co-defendant Brogan again identified himself as a Cook County sheriff. After displaying his badge, he informed the other police officers that the victim should be arrested because he was "fighting with everybody." After co-defendant Brogan released Mr. Chambers, the defendant, who was also in the vestibule area, jumped into Brogan's position on top of Mr. Chambers and placed him in a headlock. At that point, defendant was in the vestibule, on top of the victim, choking the victim by his neck as he lay face-down on the ground. Officer Battaglia from the Countryside police said the choker, whom he could not identify, had his arm wrapped around the victim's neck and had him in a choke-hold known as the "carotid artery choke," a dangerous and deadly hold if applied improperly, according to Officer Battaglia.

[16]   Accepting what co-defendant Brogan had told them, the Countryside police then attempted to handcuff the victim and, while doing so, told the choker to release the choke hold. Co-defendant Brogan remained in the vestibule during that time. While the defendant still had Mr. Chambers in a choke hold, the Countryside police told Mr. Chambers that he was under arrest and attempted to handcuff him while he resisted. During this time, Officer Battaglia told the choker to release his hold, but the choker did not comply. Officer Battaglia told the choker once again to release the victim, and then felt the victim fall limp onto his own right arm. The choker stated at that point, "he's out cold." According to Officer Battaglia, Mr. Chambers still appeared to be breathing at the point they had successfully handcuffed him

[17]   Tim Fahey, defendant's friend, then pulled the defendant off of Mr. Chambers as he lay on the ground in the vestibule; injured, unconscious and totally immobile. The security officers who were also present helping the Countryside police secure the scene saw the victim in this condition and became concerned because no one was attending to him. The police officers then pulled Mr. Chambers up, and he appeared to be unconscious. Mr. Chambers expired sometime later.

[18]   Later that evening, co-defendant Brogan told his ex-fiancée and another female wedding guest to find the defendant and get him out of the hotel because "everybody was leaving." When the two women found the defendant, the defendant asked why he had to leave because "he wasn't there, that he didn't know what happened." Defendant then apparently left the hotel approximately one-half hour after choking the victim in the vestibule. Days later, defendant told his friend, Dan O'Rourke, that he burned the suit he was wearing the evening of the wedding and bought another exactly like it. He also told Tim Fahey not to say anything, that Tim did not see him in the vestibule, and he thanked Tim for pulling him off the victim.

[19]   After the State rested, the defendant's motion for a directed verdict was denied. Defendant then presented testimony from traffic patrol officer Anthony Jarvis from the Village of Hodgkins, who stated that he had been at the William Tell Holiday Inn on August 6, 2000, at approximately 2:30 a.m. When Officer Jarvis approached the front vestibule, he saw Countryside officers and Mr. Chambers in a "skirmish," and two other people in the corner of the vestibule in the back. Officer Jarvis then attempted to prevent entry into the vestibule, and when co-defendant Brogan tried to enter, Jarvis grabbed him by the arm. Brogan then stated, "don't touch me. I'm a f------ Cook County Sheriff." Because Officer Jarvis believed that the other Countryside officers had the situation in control, he walked away from the vestibule to attend to the other fights.

[20]   After the defense's presentation of witnesses, both defendants chose not to testify on their own behalf. After the trial court fully admonished the defendants as to their rights, the trial court then heard closing arguments from both sides. During argument, defense counsel stated:

[21]   "MR. KREJCI [Defense Counsel]: And I think its pretty clear in [People v. Davis, 335 Ill. App. 3d 1102 (2002)], Judge, that one of the issues is whether or not a lesser included instruction of voluntary manslaughter could be given.

[22]   And the Court did an analogy of the issue of recklessness and whether or not there are factors that the Court could look to to determine whether or not the person who's charged acted recklessly instead of knowingly and intentionally committing the mob action for felony murder.

[23]   And the Court recognized that there [are] circumstances and that the Court could in fact find that someone during the mob action might be acting recklessly, but without knowledge and intent and then that aspect, it could not be felony murder. It would be somewhat of involuntary manslaughter.

[24]   I am not conceding that in this case, Judge, but I think that is what the Davis case set forth.

[25]   THE COURT: [Davis] said that you could, under some circumstances, get involuntary manslaughter as a lesser included offense of felony murder, but not in the case of [the defendant] Davis.

[26]   MR. KREJCI: That is correct. And the Court said that certain factors vary; whether or not ...

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