Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 02-CF-1377 Honorable Charles V. Romani, Jr., Judge, presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Goldenhersh
The text of this decision may be changed or corrected prior to the filing of a Petition for Rehearing or the disposition of the same.
JUSTICE GOLDENHERSH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Donovan and Justice Spomer concurred in the judgment and opinion.
¶ 1 Defendant, Robert J. Hildenstein, Sr., appeals from an order of the circuit court of Madison County denying his successive post-conviction petition filed under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1 to 122-8 (West 2006)). In the petition, defendant alleged that his January 20, 2004, guilty plea to first-degree murder was not knowing and voluntary because he was not advised when entering his guilty plea that he would be required to serve 3 years of mandatory supervised release upon completing his 20-year term of imprisonment. The circuit court dismissed the petition at the second stage. Defendant timely appealed. We affirm.
¶ 3 Defendant was charged with first-degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(2) (West 2000)) in the suffocation of his wife, which occurred on June 4, 2002. Ultimately, defendant pled guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in the Department of Corrections. During the plea hearing, the State presented the factual basis for the plea, showing that defendant strangled his wife to death. The trial court advised defendant of the charge and the range of possible prison sentences, but did not inform defendant he would be required to serve 3 years of mandatory supervised release upon completion of his 20 years in prison. Defendant did not make a motion to withdraw his guilty plea, nor did he pursue a direct appeal.
¶ 4 On July 13, 2004, defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief in which he claimed that defense counsel coerced him into pleading guilty and that his plea was not knowing and voluntary because he was taking Wellbutrin, a psychotropic medication, when he entered the plea, which rendered him incapable of understanding the proceedings. The trial court dismissed the petition at the first stage of the proceedings. This court entered a Rule 23 order affirming the dismissal of the petition. People v. Hildenstein, No. 5-04-0514 (2005) (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).
¶ 5 On August 14, 2006, defendant filed a pro se motion for leave to file a successive post-conviction petition in which he asserted he was never advised that he would be required to serve a three-year term of mandatory supervised release upon his release from prison. As a remedy, defendant sought a modification of his prison sentence to 17 years, plus 3 years of mandatory supervised release or any other fair and just relief. On August 29, 2006, the trial court entered an order finding the pro se petition presented the gist of a constitutional claim and ordered the petition docketed for further proceedings.
¶ 6 On September 22, 2006, defendant filed another pro se motion for leave to file a successive post-conviction petition in which he again raised the mandatory-supervised-release issue, but also alleged different grounds for not presenting the claim earlier. Defendant also filed a request for the appointment of counsel. The trial court ultimately entered an order denying the September 22, 2006, motion because it raised the same issue presented in the pending post-conviction petition. On October 4, 2006, the trial court appointed the public defender for defendant.
¶ 7 On October 12, 2006, the State filed a motion to dismiss in which it argued that defendant's claims were waived. A hearing was held on the motion to dismiss on July 9, 2008, during which defense counsel argued that the petition presented a valid claim under People v. Whitfield, 217 Ill. 2d 177, 840 N.E.2d 658 (2005), and that the imposed sentence was illegal. On September 23, 2008, the trial court entered an order denying the State's motion to dismiss.
¶ 8 On September 30, 2008, the State filed an answer to the post-conviction petition in which it again asked that the petition be dismissed. On May 1, 2009, the State filed an amended motion to dismiss in which it explained that it had obtained an order discharging defendant from mandatory supervised release at the time of his release from prison. A copy of the order signed by Jorge Montes, chairman of the Prisoner Review Board, was ...