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People v. Zelenak

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

October 9, 2014

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
GEORGE F. ZELENAK, Defendant-Appellant

 Modified upon denial of Rehearing March 5, 2015,

Appeal from the Circuit Court of La Salle County, No. 08-CF-131; the Hon. Howard C. Ryan, Jr., Judge, presiding.

SYLLABUS

The trial court abused its discretion when it did not hold a fitness hearing and reverse the denial of defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea to aggravated kidnapping and aggravated criminal sexual assault and remand the cause with instructions to conduct a fitness hearing before further postplea proceedings; therefore, the trial court's judgment was reversed and the cause was remanded for a determination of defendant's fitness and further postplea proceedings.

Rikin Shah, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Elgin, for appellant.

Brian Towne, State's Attorney, of Ottawa (Mark A. Austill, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

PRESIDING JUSTICE McDADE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion. Justice Schmidt dissented, with opinion.

OPINION

Page 611

McDADE, J.

[¶1] Defendant, George F. Zelenak, pled guilty to aggravated kidnapping (720 ILCS 5/10-2(a)(3) (West 2008)) and aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(2) (West 2008)) and was sentenced to a total of 36 years' imprisonment. Defendant filed a motion to withdraw his plea, which the trial court denied. Defendant appeals, arguing that the court erred in conducting a hearing on defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea without ordering a fitness evaluation. We reverse and remand.

[¶2] FACTS

[¶3] In March 2008, defendant was charged by indictment with aggravated kidnapping (720 ILCS 5/10-2(a)(3) (West 2008)), aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(2) (West 2008)), and criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-13(a)(1)

Page 612

(West 2008)). On April 15, 2009, private attorney Joseph Navarro filed a motion for a fitness evaluation. The trial court granted the motion. Dr. Timothy Brown's evaluation concluded that defendant was fit, and the court found that defendant was fit to stand trial.

[¶4] On December 3, 2009, defendant entered an open guilty plea to charges of aggravated kidnapping and aggravated criminal sexual assault in exchange for the dismissal of the criminal sexual assault charge. On January 15, 2010, the trial court sentenced defendant to two consecutive terms of 18 years' imprisonment.

[¶5] On February 11, 2010, Navarro filed a motion to withdraw the guilty plea, arguing that defendant did not enter into the plea knowingly and voluntarily. On February 16, 2010, the trial court allowed Navarro to withdraw and appointed the public defender to represent defendant. The matter was continued several times until December 17, 2010, when the public defender reported that a Department of Corrections (DOC) psychiatrist informed him that defendant had difficulty " comprehending what [was] going on." As a result of defendant's incarceration, the State arranged for further ...


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