Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 11-CF-510 Honorable Patricia Piper Golden, Judge, Presiding.
Defendant's convictions on two counts of resisting or obstructing a peace officer arising from an incident in which defendant was arrested following an encounter with a police officer as she was picking up her child at school were upheld, notwithstanding her contentions that she was entitled to a new trial on one count due to the trial court's improper application of the hearsay rule to bar the testimony of an eyewitness favorable to the defense and that her guilt was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt as to the second count, since the excluded hearsay related to defendant's contention that she drove away when she mistakenly thought that the officer was telling her that she could leave the scene and defendant failed to make a proper offer of proof that would support her claim, and as to defendant's second argument, there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's conclusion that defendant obstructed the police officer from arresting her when she repeatedly refused to get out of her car and forced the officer to risk his own safety by forcing her out.
Michael J. Pelletier, Thomas A. Lilien, Richard C. Harris, State Appellate Defender's Office, of Elgin, for Appellant.
Joseph H. McMahon, State's Attorney, of St. Charles (Lawrence M. Bauer, Kathryn E. Kohls, State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.
JUSTICE McLAREN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hudson and Birkett concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] A Kane County grand jury returned a three-count indictment against defendant, Helen Shenault. Count I charged defendant with aggravated battery (720 ILCS 5/12-4(b)(18) (West 2010)) and counts II and III charged her with resisting or obstructing a peace officer (720 ILCS 5/31-1(a) (West 2010)). Following a jury trial, defendant was found not guilty of the aggravated battery charge but guilty of both counts of resisting or obstructing a peace officer. Defendant argues on appeal that she is entitled to a new trial on count II because the trial court misapplied the hearsay rule to bar certain eyewitness testimony favorable to the defense. She also argues that her conviction on count III must be reversed because the State failed to prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. We affirm.
[¶2] Count II of the indictment alleged, in pertinent part, that defendant " knowingly obstructed the performance of Matthew Fichtel of an authorized act within his official capacity, being the investigation of a traffic offense, knowing Matthew Fichtel to be a peace officer engaged in the execution of his official duties, in that the defendant after being lawfully stopped by Matthew Fichtel drove away from the traffic stop without authorization from Matthew Fichtel." Count III alleged, in pertinent part, that defendant " knowingly obstructed the performance of Matthew Fichtel of an authorized act within his official capacity, being the arrest of defendant, knowing Matthew Fichtel to be a peace officer engaged in the execution of his official duties, in that the defendant being told by Matthew Fichtel that she was under arrest refused to exit her vehicle."
[¶3] The evidence presented at trial established that on March 11, 2011, Fichtel
was an officer with the Aurora police department and was assigned to serve as a school resource officer at Aurora East High School. Fichtel testified that at about 3 p.m. he was sitting in a marked squad car, monitoring traffic as students left school for the day. Fichtel's squad car was located in a southbound lane of Smith Boulevard. Fichtel observed defendant drive up alongside his vehicle and come to a stop, blocking traffic behind her. Shortly thereafter, defendant's son exited the school and got into defendant's vehicle. As defendant started to drive off, Fichtel activated his vehicle's emergency lights and defendant stopped her vehicle. Fichtel told defendant that he had stopped her because she had been obstructing traffic when she stopped to pick up her son. According to Fichtel, defendant became argumentative. Fichtel decided to issue a ticket to defendant. He told her not to move and he then walked back to his squad car and called dispatch for backup. Defendant began to pull away slowly. Fichtel approached the driver's-side window of defendant's vehicle and told defendant to stop. Fichtel asked to see defendant's driver's license and proof of insurance. According to Fichtel, defendant responded with an expletive and said, " I don't have to give you shit." Fichtel repeated his request and was met with a similar response. Defendant then drove away.
[¶4] Fichtel returned to his squad car and followed defendant's vehicle as it proceeded south on Smith Boulevard and then east on Sixth Avenue. Fichtel caught up with defendant's vehicle at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Farnum Avenue. Defendant pulled her vehicle over. Fichtel told defendant that she was under arrest and directed her to exit the vehicle. According to Fichtel, defendant responded, " I don't have to do shit." Fichtel again told defendant to exit the vehicle, but defendant continued to protest and did not comply. Fichtel opened the driver's-side door and again told defendant to get out of the vehicle. Again defendant did not comply. Fichtel grabbed defendant's left arm and told defendant once more to exit the vehicle. Defendant pulled her arm away. Fichtel reached into the vehicle to remove defendant's seatbelt. As he did so, he felt defendant kick him in the chest. Fichtel then pulled defendant out of the vehicle and placed her under arrest.
[¶5] Kelly Rodriguez testified for the State that, on the date in question, she was employed by the high school as a cafeteria worker and her daughter attended the school. Rodriguez was acquainted with Fichtel. At around 3 p.m., while waiting to pick up her daughter, Rodriguez observed that Fichtel was involved in a confrontation with a woman whose vehicle was parked in the designated bus area. Rodriguez was parked in a driveway leading from a parking lot to Smith Boulevard. Rodriguez heard the woman tell Fichtel that she was not moving her vehicle. The woman was upset and was cursing. Rodriguez, whose vehicle had been standing next to a fire hydrant, pulled forward onto Smith Boulevard and stopped in a spot that was one car length ahead of the woman's vehicle. Rodriguez heard Fichtel ask for the woman's driver's license. Asked how the woman responded, Rodriguez testified, " She said 'I am not giving you shit.'" Rodriguez saw Fichtel walk back to his squad car. She did not know whether the woman had given Fichtel her driver's license. By that point, Rodriguez's daughter arrived. Rodriguez started to drive off, but the woman pulled away from behind Rodriguez and drove past her on Smith Boulevard. Rodriguez testified that she pulled over in order to avoid being struck by the woman's vehicle.
[¶6] On cross-examination, the following exchange took place:
" Q. And at some point when you pulled out or when you were in that area, did Officer Fichtel say to you it was okay for you to go?
MR. STAJDOHAR [Assistant State's Attorney]: Objection, hearsay.
THE COURT: Well, that's ...