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The People of the State of Illinois v. Stephen Sweigart

March 27, 2013

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
STEPHEN SWEIGART,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 09-CF-3559 Honorable Edward C. Schreiber, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Zenoff

JUSTICE ZENOFF delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McLaren and Schostok concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Defendant, Stephen Sweigart, appeals from his conviction of child abduction (720 ILCS 5/10-5(b)(10) (West 2008)). He was charged with attempting to lure a child to his home from a grocery store. Defendant contends that the evidence was insufficient to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, because there was not a "dangerous proximity of success" when the child's family was nearby and defendant's vehicle was in the parking lot. We affirm.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 Defendant was charged on April 29, 2010, in connection with a December 26, 2009, conversation he had with O.W., who was referred to at trial as "Eddie" and who was eight years old at the time. Defendant was also charged with other offenses related to items found in his van. He pleaded guilty to some of those charges, and others were dismissed by the State. On May 25, 2011, a bench trial was held on the child abduction charge.

¶ 4 At trial, Eddie testified that, on December 26, 2009, defendant approached him in a grocery store. Eddie was sitting on a bench near the self-checkout line and was playing with action figures he had gotten for Christmas. His mother was approximately 10 feet away at the self checkout with Eddie's sister, Mikayla.

¶ 5 According to Eddie, defendant approached him and said, "do you want to come to my house and play with jets or choo-choo trains?" Eddie said "no," and defendant replied, "why not, it is going to be fun." Eddie then heard his mother tell Mikayla to go check on him, and defendant "scurried off away," leaving the store. Mikayla came over to Eddie, but he was scared and unable to talk to her. Defendant never touched Eddie and made no gestures with his hands. Mikayla testified that she saw defendant talking to Eddie, that her mother asked her to see what was wrong, and that Eddie did not answer her.

¶ 6 Eddie told his mother what defendant had said. After speaking to store employees, who took down the licence plate number of defendant's van, the family left the store in order to take medicine to a sick relative. The police spoke to the family at their home later that evening. The next day, a television news reporter came to their house, and Eddie said that he found it exciting to talk to the reporter.

¶ 7 Eddie's mother testified that the family was at the store buying Gatorade for a sick relative. She was unable to hear what defendant said to Eddie, but he spoke to Eddie for 30 to 40 seconds, and Eddie looked scared, so she asked Mikayla to go over to him. When Mikayla started to move toward Eddie, defendant walked out the door. Eddie would not say what happened until he was asked five or six times. Eddie's mother did not give defendant permission to ask Eddie to go anywhere with him.

¶ 8 The State played a surveillance DVD of the grocery store. The video showed that Mikayla did not walk all the way up to Eddie. Instead, she walked to the end of the checkout counter, which was a few feet from where Eddie and defendant were located.

¶ 9 The police were called, but the family did not wait for them to come to the store, because they wanted to get back to their sick relative. They waited for defendant to leave the area, but he did not, so store employees escorted them to their car. Eddie's mother said that, while she was driving home, she spoke to Officer Stacey Snyder and told Snyder that she wanted to fill out a police report, but Snyder said that a report could not be made because it was a "he said, she said" situation. The next day, Eddie's mother met with Detective Edward Corral and filled out a police report.

¶ 10 Snyder testified that she was the first responding officer, that she spoke to Eddie's mother by telephone, and that Eddie's mother said she did not want to fill out a report, did not want to come back to the store, and did not want Snyder to come to her home. However, Snyder later went to the family's home and spoke to Eddie and his mother. Snyder testified that Eddie's mother did not want to sign a written statement and indicated that Eddie either had said that nothing happened or had said nothing when Mikayla had asked him what had happened.

ΒΆ 11 Officer Lee Catavau also responded to the call and stopped defendant's van. Catavau said that defendant appeared nervous and shaky. Defendant acknowledged being at the grocery store, but said that he talked to a child in the toy aisle and that he mentioned having some fireman toys at his house. Catavau noticed that the van smelled of cannabis and was littered with items. Defendant gave permission to search his van and, among other items, officers found a loaded handgun, an unloaded handgun, 10 throwing stars, a machete, a cannabis pipe, children's toys, lingerie, wigs, and sex toys, including restraint ...


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