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Piester v. Escobar

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

June 26, 2015

SEANTAE PIESTER, Petitioner-Appellee,
v.
SANJUANA ESCOBAR, Respondent-Appellant

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Whiteside County, Illinois. Circuit No. 13-OP-281. Honorable Michael R. Albert, Judge, Presiding.

Affirmed.

O'BRIEN, JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Carter and Schmidt concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

O'BRIEN, JUSTICE

[¶1] Petitioner Seantae Piester filed a petition seeking a stalking no contact order against respondent SanJuana Escobar. Attached to the petition was an addendum and several pages of " screen saves" of social media postings Escobar had written. Piester's petition was heard and the trial court entered a plenary stalking no contact order. We affirm.

[¶2] FACTS

[¶3] In December 2013, petitioner Seantae Piester sought a stalking no contact order against respondent SanJuana Escobar. Piester asserted in the petition that Escobar was " considered armed and/or dangerous." Attached to the petition was an addendum in which Piester described Escobar's alleged stalking conduct. It set forth numerous examples, such as, on one occasion, Escobar watched Piester at her workplace from a public location across the street and recorded Piester's actions on her cellular phone. The police responded, but Escobar subsequently recorded Piester leaving her workplace. Piester thereafter required a coworker to walk her to her car because she feared for her safety.

[¶4] The addendum also stated that Piester altered her lunch times because Escobar monitored her actions and that Escobar would show up near Piester's workplace at lunch time or closing time. Escobar would park closest to Piester's work building and play loud music for " lengths of time." Piester asserted she had pictures of Escobar's car outside Piester's residence. Piester alleged that she has been forced to alter her daily routines and traffic patterns to avoid Escobar. She stated she was afraid of Escobar's " unstable behavior," which she described as " erratic and scary." In addition, Piester claimed that Escobar has disrupted Piester's job and disturbed her daily life.

[¶5] The addendum also includes information regarding Escobar's purported harassment on social media. The addendum sets out several specific examples of harassment on social media sites as well as Piester's unsuccessful attempts to block Escobar from accessing her online information. For example, according to Piester, if she would post that she was going to lunch at a specific site, Escobar would show up there too. Piester stated her motion detector lights go off at night and she is afraid that Escobar is outside her house. She has asked the neighbors to watch out for her. Finally, Piester described a threat Escobar made in 2011 and said she has not felt safe in Escobar's presence since then. Attached to the addendum were screen saves from social media demonstrating Escobar's postings.

[¶6] On January 30, 2014, a hearing took place on Piester's petition. The record on appeal, however, does not include either a report of proceedings or a bystander's report. The trial court entered a plenary stalking no contact order, which remains valid until January 30, 2016. The order prohibits Escobar from threatening to commit or committing stalking directly or through a third party and from contacting Piester in any way; orders Escobar to stay 25 feet away from Piester, her home and her workplace. In addition, Escobar is prohibited from posting anything on social media concerning Piester, using audio when recording Piester, and entering any business or government agency where Piester is located.

[¶7] In February, Escobar filed a pro se motion and accompanying affidavit seeking to vacate the stalking no contact order. Counsel filed an appearance for Escobar and an amended motion to reconsider and vacate the stalking no contact order. In the amended motion, Escobar argued that she had sought and was denied a stalking no contact order in June 2014 in another Whiteside County case (No. 13-OP-96), her motion to reconsider the denial was pending, and mutual stalking no contact orders are prohibited. See 740 ILCS 21/85 (West 2012). Escobar also argued that the plenary stalking no contact order against her interfered with her ability to pick up her daughter from the father's home, where Piester also lived. The trial court modified the plenary order on May 1, 2014, specifying that Escobar could pick up her daughter at the home Piester shared with the child's father but Escobar had to remain in her vehicle. The trial court rejected Escobar's other arguments. Escobar appealed.

[¶8] ANALYSIS

[¶9] The issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred when it entered a plenary stalking no contact order against Escobar. She argues that the pending motion to reconsider the denial of her petition for a stalking no contact order in Whiteside County case No. 13-OP-96 prevents the trial court from entering the stalking no contact order in this case; that the plenary order was not supported by the evidence; and that the plenary order violated Escobar's free speech rights.

[¶10] We begin with whether the trial court erred when it issued the stalking no contact order. Escobar argues Piester's claims of stalking were not supported by sufficient evidence or witness testimony and that none of Piester's allegations in her petition were verified by a witness. Finally, Escobar argues Piester did not prove that Escobar knew her acts caused ...


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