Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County. No. 02CF287. Honorable Jeffrey B. Ford, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Appleton
In March 2002, a grand jury charged defendant, Jackie A. Allen, with burglary (720 ILCS 5/19-1(a) (West 2000) (text of section effective June 1, 2001)). The day of his September 2002 trial, he sought to plead guilty to a lesser charge under a proposed plea agreement with the State. Upon ascertaining that the State had not yet drafted the charge, the trial court refused to consider the plea agreement. The trial proceeded, and the jury found defendant guilty as charged. At a joint October 2002 hearing, the court denied defendant's posttrial motion and sentenced him to 15 years' imprisonment.
Defendant appeals, contending (1) the court abused its discretion by refusing to consider the plea agreement, (2) the State committed reversible error by misstating the evidence in its closing argument, and (3) the court's 15-year sentence is excessive. Because we agree with the first contention, we reverse and remand.
The grand jury's indictment alleged that on December 18, 2001, defendant committed burglary in that he, "or one for whose conduct he was legally responsible, knowingly and without authority, entered a building of Eagle Head Enterprises [(Eagle Head)], *** at 130 E. Main, Tolono, Illinois, with the intent to commit therein a theft."
On September 11, 2002, the scheduled day of trial, the court asked defense counsel, before voir dire, if defendant "still persist[ed] in his plea of not guilty" to the burglary charge. Defense counsel replied: "[T]here has been an offer made by the State's Attorney. [Defendant has] decided to accept that offer if the [j]udge will entertain it." The court then asked defense counsel:
"THE COURT: Is that to the charge that I've just read to him?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: Yes, it is--well, no, Your Honor, it would be to a lesser charge.
THE COURT: We have jurors here at this time ready to proceed. I don't have any lesser charges here.
What is the situation at this time as far as the People are concerned, [prosecutor]?
[PROSECUTOR]: Judge, I can say that the State is ready for trial. We are prepared to proceed today.
I have previously tendered an offer to [defense counsel]. I know that she's been speaking with the [d]efendant on numerous occasions.
I don't think that the offer or the potential plea is necessarily inconsistent with the ends of justice or a bad plea or however one wants to say that.
So, [defense counsel] just asked me if he could still accept that, and I would be prepared to still offer that if the [c]court would accept that, but I-- obviously, it's in the discretion of the [c]court at this point.
THE COURT: Well, what type of situation are you talking about? What is the plea? There are no other charges here, so the only charge I have is to the burglary. Has anything else been filed?
[PROSECUTOR]: [Nothing else has] been filed, [j]udge. It was believed that another charge would be filed if he would accept the plea.
THE COURT: Do you have those papers?
[PROSECUTOR]: I do not have those prepared now.
THE COURT: Then, no, we have people waiting.
I am not going to wait for the State and have the jurors sit and wait for the ...