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In re Raheem M.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

December 10, 2013

In re RAHEEM M., a Minor,
RAHEEM M., Respondent-Appellant. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Petitioner-Appellee,

Held [*]

The adjudication of delinquency entered against respondent based on findings that he was guilty of aggravated battery of a teacher and disorderly conduct was affirmed by the appellate court, but his sentence to the Department of Juvenile Justice and the fines imposed were vacated and the cause was remanded for a new sentencing hearing, since the evidence was sufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the teacher involved in a disturbance in the school cafeteria suffered bodily harm as a result of respondent’s battery, but the trial court failed to comply with the statutory requirement that alternatives to confinement be considered before sentencing respondent to the DOJJ.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Vermilion County, No. 12-JD-185; the Hon. Claudia S. Anderson, Judge, presiding.

Michael J. Pelletier, Karen Munoz, and Arden J. Lang (argued), all of State Appellate Defender’s Office, of Springfield, for appellant.

Randall Brinegar, State’s Attorney, of Danville (Patrick Delfino, Robert J. Biderman, and Anastacia R. Brooks (argued), all of State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor’s Office, of counsel), for the People.

Justice Holder White concurred in the judgment and opinion.



¶1 In April 2013, the trial court found respondent, Raheem M. (born October 19, 1995), guilty of aggravated battery of a teacher (720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(d)(3) (West 2012)) and disorderly conduct (720 ILCS 5/26-1(a)(1) (West 2012)). In May 2013, the court sentenced respondent to an indeterminate term in the Department of Juvenile Justice (DOJJ). Respondent appeals, arguing the following: (1) the State's charge of aggravated battery of a teacher was fatally defective because it failed to specify the manner of battery upon which it was predicated, thereby failing to apprise respondent of the precise offense charged with enough specificity to prepare his defense and, if convicted, avoid a future prosecution for the same conduct; (2) the State failed to prove respondent guilty of aggravated battery of a teacher beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) respondent's sentence to the DOJJ must be vacated because of several sentencing errors; and (4) the fines assessed against respondent must be vacated because neither the circuit clerk nor the trial court was authorized to assess fines against respondent in this juvenile proceeding. We affirm respondent's adjudication of delinquency, vacate his sentence and the fines imposed, and remand for a new sentencing hearing.


¶3 On October 18, 2012, the State filed a petition for adjudication of delinquency against respondent. The fact sheet attached to the petition included two counts. Count I charged respondent with aggravated battery of a teacher in violation of section 12-3.05(d)(3) of the Criminal Code of 2012 (Criminal Code) (720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(d)(3) (West 2012)). Count II charged respondent with disorderly conduct in violation of section 26-1(a)(1) of the Criminal Code (720 ILCS 5/26-1(a)(1) (West 2012)).

¶4 The trial court held a hearing on the petition in April 2013. Robert McGuire testified he worked as a hall monitor at Danville High School. A fight occurred in the school cafeteria on September 10, 2012, at approximately 11:20 a.m. McGuire was stationed in the middle of the cafeteria. The fight started when two male students had a verbal altercation. Less than a minute after the two students were separated, seven to nine young men went to the other side of the cafeteria and a brawl began. McGuire grabbed one of those students and shielded him from chairs being thrown at the young man. The chairs were thrown about 20 to 30 feet. It took approximately 12 minutes to get everyone under control and the cafeteria back to normal. The actual fight did not last that long.

¶5 McGuire testified he was struck two to four times by the chairs on his midsection and lower body. He saw respondent, whom he identified in court, throw at least one of the chairs that struck him. When asked whether he suffered any injuries, McGuire stated he was not cut and probably had minor bruises. He knew respondent from seeing him around the school, but he had never had any type of problem with him before.

¶6 Larry Withers testified he also works as a hall monitor at Danville High School. During the lunch period, Withers told Officer Weaver they probably were going to have some problems in the cafeteria because the students were hollering at each other across the lunchroom. When he reentered the student cafeteria, the fight broke out. There were about six or seven students involved. Two students were punching each other, and Withers grabbed one of them and put him against the wall. He did not see who threw the chairs at McGuire. According to Withers, respondent was in the middle of the brawl.

¶7 Thomas Lane testified he is a hall monitor at Danville High School. He entered the student cafeteria in time to see respondent throwing a chair. Lane was about 30 feet away from respondent when he saw respondent throw the chair. Respondent threw one of several chairs that were thrown.

¶8 Officer Doug Weaver, a Danville police officer assigned to the high school, testified he entered the student cafeteria after he became aware of the fight and only saw another student, Maurice H., throw a chair. Respondent was with Maurice H. when they started running toward the opposite end of the cafeteria. Weaver was able to catch up with respondent and Maurice H. He took respondent and Maurice H. to the public safety building.

¶9 Respondent testified on his own behalf. According to respondent, on the day of the incident, one of the other students in the brawl had an altercation with one of respondent's friends in the hallway. As to what happened in the cafeteria, respondent testified:

"I was in the lunch line, and I noticed that one of the persons that was in the incident had struck my friend with a chair. Then I ran over there; and as I ran, one of them threw a chair at me. Then I threw one back, and I guess it hit whoever his name."

¶10 The trial court found respondent guilty on both counts. The court stated:

"Now, the problem that I have at this point is that I have a Class 3 felony and, of course, a Class A misdemeanor. But naturally I'm concerned about the Class 3 felony; and I'm interested in some things that I might be able to get ahead of sentencing which would, to a large degree, include [a] record of incidents that had occurred at Danville High School ***."
The court, sua sponte, ordered respondent detained, finding his detention a matter of immediate and urgent necessity and in the best interest of the public and the minor, despite no request by the State to do so and despite the fact respondent had been free since the incident occurred seven months earlier. Further, respondent was scheduled to take his general equivalency degree (GED) exam May 14 and 15, but as a result of his detention he was unable to do so.

¶11 On May 28, 2013, the trial court held a sentencing hearing. The court noted it had reviewed a social history report in the case dated May 22, 2013. Respondent told the court, "I would like to say I'm sorry for the incident that was caused in September, and if I was to be released, that I would get right, start working towards my GED that I got scheduled in June."

¶12 The State recommended respondent be sentenced to an indeterminate term in the DOJJ, noting the case involved a battery to a teacher, a Class 3 felony, and this was not his first incident at school. Defense counsel noted while respondent had a number of police contacts, he had never been charged with a criminal offense. He had no prior time in the DOJJ and had done rather well with school at the juvenile detention facility. Counsel noted of the codefendants: one received probation, one received supervision, and three had their cases dismissed. Defense counsel also noted respondent did not have a perfect report at juvenile detention. In addition, defense counsel stated:

"Clearly, this young man has the potential to do well. He has some high risk factors. I think that his biological father would demonstrate that. [The biological father's] got a lengthy criminal history, and I think there is some significant danger for this young man to follow in his father's footsteps. If you send him to the Department of Corrections, I think you'll almost seal the deal that he's going to follow his father's example rather than his stepfather's example, and I think that would be a tragedy. If, on the other hand, you place him in a community based sentence, and order that he [get] his GED, order that he maybe get into some counseling to deal with some of the issues that, you know, clearly he has as reflected, I think in particular in his detention report, he could probably stand to have some counseling to deal with maybe some issues that he has with adults so that he can learn to react more positively, and I think he is balanced on a cliff right now, and he can either go over that cliff and have a life where he's locked up the majority of his adult life, or he can find a new path here. And at 17, he's at a very vulnerable age. I would strongly suggest that the solution for him, the only chance he has of turning his life around really at this point is a chance at probation."

¶13 The trial court said it had reviewed respondent's student discipline report covering incidents between September 7, 2010, and September 10, 2012, which was attached to his presentence report. The court noted "the incidents and the events that occur[red] illustrate quite poetically the state of the minor, which is an attitude of aggression, an attitude of refusal to show respect to the people who are in authority over him, and not only that, but refusal to show respect to his fellow students." The court found it somewhat astonishing it appeared respondent was capable of earning A's and B's in school. However, the court noted respondent's behavior had interrupted his ability to maintain an acceptable grade point average and to get an education.

¶14 The trial court stated respondent's mother had a clean record and appeared to be making the best effort she could with respect to respondent. However, respondent's biological father had two pages of criminal convictions, including aggravated assaults, aggravated batteries, and an aggravated battery to a police officer. (The biological father's entire criminal history was set forth in the social history report.) The court told respondent, "So, maybe some modification of your mind-set needs to take place, because you think that's okay, and it's not. It's not okay." The court also noted respondent had various contacts and issues with local police. However, the court acknowledged none of those contacts were convictions and stated it was not placing much weight on those contacts. However, based on those contacts and the information from Danville High School, the court stated it did not have much hope a community-based sentence would be appropriate. The court went on:

"I agree the Court is to try to look at some alternative that would allow the minor to be in a less confined circumstance as a result of his offenses. I don't know that that's possible when you have someone like this. I also think there's a value to a deterrence message to people in this community. You do not go to school and end up in a brawl which results in teachers being battered. That's just not acceptable. It's not done. And it's not going to be something that we're going to accept at Danville High School or any other school in Vermilion County, to be quite frank. So, from my point of view, the best interest of the public, as well as the minor, is to make him a ward of the Court, sentence him to the Illinois Department of Corrections [sic] for an indeterminate amount of time, not to exceed the maximum of the offense of the Class 3, or his age 21, whichever first occurs."
However, respondent's social history report confirmed defense counsel's representation that the other juveniles charged for their involvement in the brawl received significantly less harsh punishments, if they were punished at all. Savion C. was placed on six months of probation (case No. 12-JD-182). Trenton J. was placed on 12 months of supervision (case No. 12-JD-188). JoeVionte S. (case No. 12-JD-183), Jermaine W. (case No. 12-JD-184), and Terrance T. (case No. 12-JD-187) all had their cases dismissed. We also note "Mr. [H.], " whom McGuire also indicated threw chairs that hit him, was not listed on the social history report as being charged. In addition, the social history report does not show any assessments or evaluations were done of the minor prior to sentencing.

¶15 On June 11, 2013, respondent filed an amended motion to reconsider sentence. On July 8, 2013, the trial court held a hearing on the amended motion to reconsider sentence. Respondent's trial counsel asked the trial court to "take into consideration some of the factors that we were not able to present at the sentencing hearing since I myself was not personally present." The amended motion stated respondent's trial counsel was unavailable to attend the sentencing hearing because of illness, and the attorney who appeared on behalf of respondent at the hearing was not fully apprised of all of the facts in the case, "including possible factors in mitigation or custodial alternatives."

¶16 Respondent's counsel also told the trial court a custodian for respondent had been identified. Kenneth Porter, a minister at New Jerusalem Church of Christ and respondent's uncle, testified he would be willing to have respondent reside with him if respondent was placed on probation and would be able to provide for respondent. Porter testified part of his ministry was to teach young people about changing their mind-set about life. He also stated he could ensure respondent took part in activities at his church and at the local Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), where his family belonged.

¶17 In addition, Porter testified he thought respondent would listen to him and follow his rules based on his past experience with respondent. He also believed he could keep respondent apart from his peer group. When asked what would happen if respondent did not follow his rules or the rules set out by the court, Porter stated he would call the probation office and let them know what respondent was doing. According to Porter, "I'm not gonna hold back anything or be a person that's gonna agree to a lot of going against the law and all that old junk, I'm not gonna get myself in that."

¶18 Respondent testified he had been in the DOJJ for two months. At that time, he was in a "well-behaved unit." Respondent's counsel told the trial court she independently confirmed respondent was being housed in a "step[-]down unit."

ΒΆ19 Respondent's counsel asked the trial court to vacate the DOJJ sentence and place respondent on probation with whatever terms and conditions the court believed would be in respondent's best interests and the best interests of the ...

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