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The People of the State of Illinois v. Christine Baskerville et al.

February 17, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,
v.
CHRISTINE BASKERVILLE ET AL. (JOSEPH BASKERVILLE, APPELLEE).



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Theis

JUSTICE THEIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Karmeier, and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Chief Justice Kilbride dissented, with opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 In this appeal, we are asked to consider whether the offense of obstructing a peace officer under section 31-1(a) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Code) (720 ILCS 5/31-1 (West 2006)) necessitates proof of a physical act, and whether the evidence was sufficient to support defendant's conviction. For the reasons that follow, we hold that proof of a physical act is not a necessary element of the offense, and that knowingly furnishing a false statement to an officer may constitute obstruction under section 31-1(a) where the statement interposes an obstacle that impedes or hinders the officer and is relevant to the performance of his authorized duties. We further hold that in this case the State failed to prove that defendant's false statement obstructed the officer. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the appellate court.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 Defendant Joseph Baskerville (defendant) was charged with obstructing a peace officer under section 31-1(a) of the Code (720 ILCS 5/31-1(a) (West 2006)) for lying to La Salle County Sheriff's Deputy John Dyke regarding the whereabouts of defendant's wife, Christine Baskerville. The charging instrument provided that defendant "knowingly obstructed the performance of John Dyke of an authorized act within his official capacity, being the execution of a traffic stop, knowing John Dyke to be a peace officer engaged in the execution of his official duties, in that he provided false information to Deputy Dyke as to the whereabouts of Christine Baskerville."

¶ 4 At a joint bench trial, Deputy Dyke testified that on the evening of April 16, 2007, he was standing outside a private security building in the Lake Holiday community, talking to some private security officers, when he saw Christine Baskerville and a passenger in a blue van traveling on County Highway 3 in La Salle County. Dyke recognized Christine from previous contacts with her and believed that her license had been suspended.

¶ 5 Dyke's observation was corroborated by Craig Michael Conley, a field training officer and patrolman for the Lake Holiday Security Department. Conley testified that he was on duty on April 16, 2007, at about 6:21 p.m., having a conversation with Dyke. Christine drove by in a van with a child in the passenger seat, heading south on County Highway 3. Conley also recognized Christine from having had prior dealings with her.

¶ 6 Dyke then returned to his vehicle and, knowing where Christine lived, attempted to intercept her on her way home by taking a different route. At that time, Dyke requested that the dispatcher confirm that Christine's license was suspended. When Dyke reached the intersection of Lois and Suzie Streets, Christine drove by and Dyke saw her again through the passenger side window. Dyke followed behind her, but he did not activate his emergency lights. By the time he received the confirmation that Christine's license was suspended, she was pulling into her driveway. Christine exited the driver's side of the van and proceeded toward her house. Dyke testified that he asked Christine to return to her vehicle, but she continued to walk into the house. He did not see her again.

¶ 7 After Christine entered the home, defendant emerged and had a conversation with Dyke outside the residence. Dyke informed defendant that he had caught Christine driving on a suspended license. He asked defendant to go into the house and retrieve Christine. Defendant initially told Dyke that he was driving the van and that Christine was not home. Defendant then went inside the house. When he reemerged he said he did not know what was "going on" because he was at home. Dyke acknowledged that defendant told him that he could enter the home to look for Christine, but Dyke declined to enter. Instead, he told defendant that he would send Christine a ticket in the mail and "refer the report of the incidents for obstructing" an officer. The State then rested.

¶ 8 Several family members and a family friend testified on behalf of the defense. Thomas Crothers, an 18-year-old neighbor and family friend of the Baskerville children, testified that he arrived at their home at about 4 p.m. on April 16, 2007. Defendant was sleeping on the couch and Christine was not home. At about 6 p.m., Crothers drove defendant's 17-year-old daughter, Annie Baskerville, to the store in the Baskervilles' blue van. On the way home, they noticed a La Salle County police vehicle behind them, but did not "think anything of it" because the emergency lights were not activated. Crothers pulled the van into the driveway, went inside the house to return the keys, left out the back door and went home. He further testified that when he returned from the store Christine was not home and defendant was still sleeping on the couch.

¶ 9 Annie testified that the police car pulled up to the end of their driveway, she exited the van and had a conversation with Dyke. He asked Annie to go inside and get her mom, and Annie told him that her mom was not home. Dyke then told her to "go get who[ever] walked in the door." She went and got her dad because Crothers had gone home. When she went inside the house she did not see her mother.

¶ 10 Nicoletta Baskerville, defendant's 13-year-old daughter, testified that at some point that day her sister Annie went to the store with Crothers. When they returned, Nicoletta was in the garage and saw a police car parked by the mailbox. Annie and Crothers walked inside and Nicoletta went to the car to get her backpack. Dyke approached Nicoletta, but she told Dyke she could not talk to strangers. According to Nicoletta, her dad was asleep in the house. Christine testified that she went to her sister-in-law's house that day to help take care of her newborn baby. She got a ride from a friend at about 7:30 a.m. and defendant picked her up at about 9 p.m. that evening.

¶ 11 Defendant testified that he worked in the morning and returned home at about 2 p.m. that day. Christine was not home and he lay down on the couch and took a nap. His daughter later woke him, telling him that the police were outside. Defendant stepped outside and had a conversation with Dyke who told him that his wife was driving on a suspended license and that defendant needed to go inside and retrieve her. Defendant testified that he went back in the house and Christine was not at home. He then related to Dyke that Christine was not home.

¶ 12 In rebuttal, Dyke and Conley testified that they knew Crothers from prior contacts with him and denied that he was driving the van that day. Dyke further testified that he sent Christine a ticket by certified mail for driving with a suspended license, which was initially returned to him. Christine was ultimately served with a citation several weeks later.

¶ 13 Following closing argument, the circuit court of La Salle County found the State's witnesses consistent and defendant's witnesses entirely inconsistent. Specifically, with regard to defendant's statement to Dyke that he could "go inside and look," the court stated as follows:

"That was an issue that bothered me a little bit in making my decision. But, on the other hand, when I look at the evidence and weigh it, I mean if she wanted to hide, she could hide. I'm sure the deputy wasn't going to look at every place in the house. He would probably just ...


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