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People v. Donelson

Supreme Court of Illinois

March 21, 2013



Where a defendant who had entered into a fully negotiated plea agreement for concurrent terms claimed that it was void because consecutive sentences were required by statute, but where the maximum term which the parties had originally intended was clear, it was proper to order a contract reformation on remand which would correct the parties’ mutual mistake by reconfiguring the sentences so as to impose consecutive terms which implemented that maximum sentence.

Rehearing denied May 28, 2013

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, the Hon. Lawrence Edward Flood, Judge, presiding.

Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Alan D. Goldberg, Deputy Defender, and Jessica D. Pamon, Assistant Appellate Defender, of the Office of the State Appellate Defender, of Chicago, and Charles Donelson, pro se, for appellant.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Springfield, and Anita Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Michelle Katz and Sheilah O'Grady-Krajniak, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.



¶ 1 In this appeal, we consider the proper remedy where the State and the defendant, parties to a fully negotiated plea agreement, are mutually mistaken as to the manner in which sentences of imprisonment must be served, but otherwise agree upon the maximum number of years to be served. Faced with this issue, the appellate court acknowledged that consecutive sentencing was statutorily mandated, and in that respect the concurrent sentencing structure of the parties' plea agreement rendered defendant's sentencing void. 2011 IL App (1st) 092594, ¶ 9. However, the appellate court concluded that the plea agreement, "taken as a whole, is not contrary to statutory authority and thus not void, " insofar as sentences could be fashioned, within statutory constraints, to effectuate the parties' intent, i.e., that the defendant "receive a total of 50 years' imprisonment." 2011 IL App (1st) 092594, ¶ 18. Thus, the appellate court remanded this cause to the circuit court "to resentence defendant in accordance with both the plea agreement and the applicable statutes." 2011 IL App (1st) 092594, ¶ 22. We allowed the defendant's petition for leave to appeal (Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. Feb. 26, 2010)), and now affirm the judgment of the appellate court.


¶ 3 Defendant, Charles Donelson, was charged, in indictment number 98 CR 11525, with first degree murder, home invasion, residential burglary, and aggravated criminal sexual assault. Defendant was charged separately, in indictment number 98 CR 11527, with aggravated criminal sexual assault. The cases were consolidated and proceeded to a jury trial on January 30, 2001. After opening statements, and commencement of the State's case in chief, the parties informed the court that they had reached a plea agreement.

¶ 4 The parties agreed that defendant would plead guilty to first degree murder and home invasion, as charged in indictment number 98 CR 11525, and aggravated criminal sexual assault, under indictment number 98 CR 11527. It was further agreed that he would receive prison sentences of 55, 30 and 30 years, respectively, to be served concurrently.

¶ 5 The court admonished defendant regarding the rights he was giving up by pleading guilty. Defendant said he understood. The court advised defendant of the maximum sentences that could be imposed for each offense. Defendant again indicated he understood. The court confirmed that the proposed prison sentences—including a 55-year sentence of imprisonment for murder—met with defendant's expectations. Upon inquiry by the court, defendant responded that no one had forced him to plead guilty and no promises had been made to him other than the stated terms of the plea agreement.

ΒΆ 6 The defendant then stipulated that the facts as stated in the prosecutor's opening statement would serve as the factual basis for the guilty plea. The court found a sufficient factual basis for the guilty plea and ...

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