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Nicholson v. Wilson

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

August 5, 2013

DONNA NICHOLSON, Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
JEFFREY WILSON, Respondent-Appellant The State of Illinois, Intervenor-Appellee.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois, Appeal No. 3-11-0517 Circuit No. 11-OP-457 Honorable Albert L. Purham, Jr., Judge, Presiding.

JUSTICE HOLDRIDGE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McDade and O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

HOLDRIDGE, JUSTICE

¶ 1 Respondent, Jeffrey Wilson, appeals from a plenary no-stalking, no-contact order entered July 15, 2011. The order was issued pursuant to the Stalking No Contact Order Act (Act) 740 ILCS 21/1 et seq. (West 2010). In issuing the order, the circuit court of Peoria County rejected certain constitutional challenges to the Act. On appeal, the respondent raised, inter alia, those same constitutional challenges. The State of Illinois, through the Attorney General, sought and was granted leave by the trial court to intervene to defend the constitutionality of the Act. The State continues to be a party to the appeal. For the reasons that follow, we uphold the constitutionality of the Act.

¶ 2 FACTS

¶ 3 On April 29, 2011, Donna Nicholson, an officer of the Peoria Police Department, filed a verified petition for a no-stalking, no-contact order pursuant to the Act. The petition included allegations that the respondent, Jeffrey Wilson, another police officer in the same department, had engaged in allegedly inappropriate conduct toward her over the course of several years. The trial court rendered its ruling based upon two specific instances: (1) Wilson's covertly videotaping Nicholson during the fall of 2010; and (2) his use of a GPS tracking device which he placed on Nicholson's car and used to monitor her movements.

¶ 4 Nicholson has been a police officer with the city of Peoria since 1991 and has worked in the vice unit since 2002. Wilson joined the Peoria police force in 1995 and was assigned to the vice unit in 2000. Wilson has been the unit technical officer since he joined the unit and was specifically assigned responsibility for the unit's video, audio, and surveillance equipment. Wilson was specially trained in electronic surveillance, GPS installation and maintenance, and surveillance equipment engineering.

¶ 5 On November 9, 2010, Lieutenant Michael Eddlemon observed a surveillance camera feed labeled "office" streaming onto the computer at Wilson's work station. Based upon Eddlemon's observation, a departmental investigation was initiated. A department computer video expert was able to establish that a hidden camera was trained on Nicholson's desk and that a pan/tilt/function had been utilized in the video recording to follow her movements around her desk and the office. Equipment records indicated that Wilson was the only officer who had access to the camera. When asked about the recordings, Wilson told his superiors that he had merely been testing the equipment and did not intend to use the camera to monitor Nicholson or anyone else. He claimed that the video must have accidentally recorded Nicholson. When Nicholson was informed that Wilson may have been videotaping her at the office, she became quite upset. She testified at the hearing that she felt victimized, betrayed, and angry that Wilson videotaped her after he had been ordered not to do so in 2008.

¶ 6 In April 2008, Nicholson had reported a similar incident where she believed that Wilson was monitoring her movements in the office by use of video cameras. Nicholson testified that she reported her suspicions to her superiors, but she did not file a formal complaint. Wilson denied ever being told by superiors not to videotape Nicholson. However, Sergeant Jerry Bainter testified that he recalled instructing Wilson not to videotape any individuals at the office without their permission.

¶ 7 In August 2010, a Sentinel GPS tracking device was discovered on Nicholson's car. Wilson denied having anything to do with the device being on her car. The device discovered on the car was a department device that transmitted data to a specific laptop computer, which was kept at Wilson's desk and for which he was responsible. Wilson denied that he placed the GPS device on Nicholson's car, and he claimed that three other officers in the department had the knowledge to use the GPS device. Following a departmental investigation, it was determined that Wilson was likely responsible for the placement of the GPS device on Nicholson's car. At the time of the hearing on Nicholson's petition, the department had not finalized its investigation.

¶ 8 Evidence was also presented at the hearing on Nicholson's petition which appears to indicate that Wilson was transferred to another unit during the investigation and that there had apparently been four "brief run-ins" between Nicholson and Wilson after that date. The trial court discounted the 2008 incident and the "run-ins" in reaching its decision to issue the no contact order. The trial court found, however, that Wilson had been specifically instructed not to videotape Nicholson in 2008 but did so anyway in November 2010, without her knowledge or consent. The trial court also found, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Wilson had placed the GPS tracking device on Nicholson's car and had used it to engage in surveillance of Nicholson, again without her knowledge or consent. Based upon these factual findings, the trial court determined that Wilson had engaged in the two or more acts of stalking necessary for the issuance of a no-stalking, no-contact order pursuant to the Act.

¶ 9 ANALYSIS

¶ 10 Standard of Review

¶ 11 Wilson raises three constitutional arguments and one factual argument against the trial court's issuance of the plenary no-stalking, no-contact order. His three constitutional arguments are that the Act is unconstitutionally vague, violates the equal protection clause, and violates the first amendment. Whether a legislative enactment is constitutional presents a question of law, which is reviewed de novo. City of Chicago v. Pooh Bah Enterprises, Inc., 224 Ill.2d 390, 406 (2006). His final argument is that the evidence presented was insufficient to establish that a no-stalking, no-contact order under the Act was warranted. The parties are in agreement that the trial court's decision to issue the order should be affirmed unless it is against the manifest ...


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