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The People of the State of Illinois v. Nathan B. Feller

October 25, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
NATHAN B. FELLER,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Putnam County, Illinois, Circuit No. 10-CF-14 Honorable Kevin R. Galley, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'brien

JUSTICE O'BRIEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Holdridge concurred in the judgment and opinion.

Justice Lytton dissented, with opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Defendant, Nathan B. Feller, was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12-16(d) (West 2010)), criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-13(a)(4) (West 2010)), and aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(6) (West 2010)). The trial court sentenced defendant to 20 years' imprisonment for the aggravated criminal sexual assault charge. The court did not sentence defendant on the other charges. Defendant appeals, arguing that his convictions for criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual assault should be reversed because the evidence did not support a finding that defendant was in a position of trust, authority, or supervision in relation to the victim. We affirm.

¶ 2 FACTS

¶ 3 Defendant was charged with two counts each of aggravated criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12-16(d) (West 2010)), criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-13(a)(4) (West 2010)), and aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(6) (West 2010)). The counts alleging criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual assault claimed that defendant was in a position of trust, authority, or supervision to the victim. All of the counts were the result of a July 31, 2010, incident whereby the State alleged that defendant placed his fingers and penis in the vagina of an individual who was at least 13, but under 17, years of age. The cause proceeded to a bench trial.

¶ 4 At trial, Putnam County Sheriff's Deputy David Gapinski testified that he began an investigation of the incident after the victim's father visited the sheriff's office and reported that his 14-year-old daughter had sex with defendant, whom he believed was 32. The State introduced a recorded interview of defendant conducted at the Putnam County sheriff's office. Defendant told the officers that he was 31 and that he was with the victim at Lake Thunderbird the day of the offense. Defendant stated that he swam with the victim because she was blind and needed assistance in the water. Eventually, defendant admitted to kissing the victim and placing his finger in her vagina while they swam in the lake. Defendant denied penetrating the victim's vagina with his tongue or penis.

¶ 5 The victim's mother testified that the victim was 14 years old on the date of the offense. She further stated that the victim suffers from leber's congenital amaurosis and had been blind since birth. She stated that while the victim can swim in a lake, she needs the assistance of a sighted person to guide her through the water. According to the victim's mother, the victim could never swim in a lake unassisted.

¶ 6 The victim testified that she had been blind since birth and required assistance when she swam in a lake. In fact, she stated that she had never swum in a lake without someone that she trusted to assist her. She stated that she went to Lake Thunderbird with friends on July 31, 2010. She knew everyone in the group except for defendant, whom she met for the first time at the lake. Defendant assisted the victim a number of times while she was in the water. He guided her from the shore to a dock out in the lake and back. The victim stated that she would not have been able to swim to the shore without defendant helping her.

¶ 7 While they were in the lake, defendant and the victim began kissing and touching each other. Defendant then began biting the victim's neck and chest. According to the victim, defendant then inserted his finger, tongue, and penis into her vagina. When the victim returned home, her father noticed the bite marks and inquired as to how she received them. She informed him that defendant had given them to her. Thereafter, the victim's father brought her to the police station.

¶ 8 After the close of the State's evidence, defendant sought a directed finding of not guilty on the criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual assault charges. He argued that the State had failed to offer any evidence which supported a finding that defendant was in a position of trust, authority, or supervision in relation to the victim. The court denied defendant's motion, finding that the victim was reliant on defendant's aid while out in the lake and that the reliance created a position of trust, authority, or supervision.

¶ 9 Thereafter, defendant testified in his own defense. He stated that he only assisted the victim on two different occasions totaling four to six minutes. He denied placing his finger, tongue, or penis in the victim's vagina.

ΒΆ 10 The trial court found defendant guilty of one count each of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, criminal sexual assault, and aggravated criminal sexual assault. Defendant was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment only on the ...


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