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People v. Stanbridge

May 04, 2004


[6] Appeal from Circuit Court of Adams County No. 01CF298 Honorable Mark A. Schuering, Judge Presiding.

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

[8]  An Adams County jury found defendant, Kevin W. Stanbridge, guilty of aggravated criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12-16(d) (West 2002)), and the circuit court sentenced him to seven years in prison. Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court erred in finding that his attorney's opening statement opened the door to the State's presentation of other-crimes evidence. We reverse and remand for a new trial.

[9]  The information charging defendant alleged that he committed an act of sexual penetration with J.R.E., a minor, by placing his mouth on J.R.E.'s penis on or about November 27, 1999. J.R.E. was 14 years old.

[10]   Defendant, a 35-year-old truck driver, was friends with Robert Eddy, J.R.E.'s father. In November 1997, when defendant was living in Quincy with his wife and children, Eddy and J.R.E. came to stay with him. They stayed for almost a year. Eddy and J.R.E. stayed with defendant and his family a second time, from January to June 1999.

[11]   Defendant and Eddy maintained contact thereafter, periodically meeting for beer. On Friday, November 26, 1999, defendant called Eddy to ask if he and J.R.E. would like to come to defendant's house for a barbecue. Defendant's wife had by now divorced him, but their three children were staying with defendant on this particular weekend. He and Eddy left the children with J.R.E. while they went to a bar. Defendant and Eddy each consumed several beers before returning to defendant's home at around 9 p.m., accompanied by a friend named Jeff Warner.

[12]   At defendant's home, the three adults and J.R.E. began watching a movie in the living room. Eddy went to sleep in another room, leaving defendant, Warner, and J.R.E. When J.R.E. began to fall asleep on the couch, defendant told him to go to defendant's bedroom so he could sleep there. Defendant then dragged J.R.E. by the ankles into defendant's bedroom and told him to take his clothes off. After J.R.E. stripped down to his underwear, he got into defendant's bed, and defendant returned to the living room to continue watching the movie.

[13]   J.R.E. testified that he went to sleep but during the night awoke to the feeling of defendant rubbing his crotch. J.R.E. told him to stop and elbowed him in the head. Defendant stopped, and J.R.E. dozed off. Later he was again awakened, this time by defendant performing oral sex on him. Defendant denies any sexual contact between him and J.R.E.

[14]   Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion in limine to exclude evidence of (1) an October 24, 1989, conviction for criminal sexual abuse (P.F.) and (2) an uncharged sexual offense from 1981 (A.B.). At the hearing on this motion, the State also raised a third incident, another uncharged offense from 1987. The State wished to use these prior incidents to prove modus operandi and absence of mistake. The trial court found that there was a significant risk of prejudice in allowing the State to use any of this evidence at trial and granted the motion as to all three incidents.

[15]   On the morning of the first day of trial, the State filed its own motion in limine. The State sought to bar defendant from using any reference to his heterosexuality as part of his defense. Defendant had commented to a police investigator that he was not a homosexual and did not like little boys. The assistant State's Attorney (ASA) asserted that defendant should not be allowed to "argue that statement in support of his assertion that he is heterosexual."

[16]   The trial court denied the State's motion but in doing so warned defendant against opening the door to this topic. The court stated that "if there are references, solicitations, [or] evidence presented, then the State would be permitted, contrary to my earlier ruling, to bring in the testimony of the other conduct to rebut that[,] and it would be completely appropriate." The court warned defendant's attorney that he would be on "a very slippery slope in this regard."

[17]   In his opening statement, defense counsel began with some background information, stating that "[m]y client is at this time--at the time of the incident in November of 1999 *** he was a father of [three]. He had an 11-month-old daughter, 2 sons, 4 and 6 years old. He's a veteran." A little later, counsel discussed the relationship between defendant's and J.R.E.'s families, relating that "in November of 1997[,] [J.R.E.] and Rob Eddy lived with [defendant]. Moved out sometime in August of 1998, lived there for, oh, almost a year period. The facts will indicate that all during this period of time there is [sic] no similar allegations. They also move back in some[]time in January of '99. They moved out sometime May or June of '99." (Emphasis added.)

[18]   As soon as defense counsel finished his opening statement, the State moved to reconsider the rulings on both of the motions in limine. Although his argument is not clear, the ASA apparently thought that when defense counsel stated that defendant was a father and a veteran, he intended to raise an inference of heterosexuality. The trial court asked the ASA to comment on the statement regarding "similar allegations," and the ASA responded by saying that the defense had "burst through that door" such that the motions in limine should be reversed.

[19]   The trial court was troubled by defendant being described as a father and a veteran but more worried about the remark that there were no similar allegations during the time defendant and J.R.E. lived in the same household. The court declared the "door to have been opened" and that the State should be allowed to present evidence of defendant's 1989 conviction and the uncharged incident from 1987.

[20]   In its case in chief, the State called as witnesses the two young men involved in these incidents. P.F. testified that in August 1989, when he was 14, he was playing pool in a bar while waiting for his mother when defendant asked him if he wanted some beer. The two got into defendant's truck, went to buy some beer, and then drove to an isolated area near a stone bridge in South Park. There, defendant laid his head in P.F.'s lap and then started rubbing ...

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