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People v. Kent

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

September 23, 2016

LORENZO KENT, JR., Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 13-CF-1262 Honorable Fernando L. Engelsma, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hutchinson and Birkett concurred in the judgment and opinion.


          BURKE, JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Lorenzo Kent, Jr., and his girlfriend, Kimiko Wilson, were involved in an altercation with Dashon Thompson and Donmarquis Jackson, with whom Wilson has two children. Based on defendant's and Wilson's conduct during the altercation, a bench trial resulted in defendant's conviction of mob action (see 720 ILCS 5/25-1(a)(1) (West 2012)) and a sentence of 2½ years' imprisonment.

         ¶ 2 On appeal, defendant argues that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he and Wilson acted together to disturb the public peace through the use of force or violence. We agree with defendant and reverse the conviction.

         ¶ 3 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 Defendant and Wilson were charged with mob action based on the allegation that, on May 4, 2013, they knowingly, by the use of force or violence, disturbed the public peace in that they, while acting together and without authority of law, struck Jackson, thereby inflicting injury to him. See 720 ILCS 5/25-1(a)(1) (West 2012).

         ¶ 5 Thompson testified at trial that, on May 4, 2013, he and Jackson were riding in a car when Jackson received a call from Wilson. Thompson heard Jackson arguing with Wilson on the phone. Thompson drove to Jackson's home, on Nelson Boulevard in Rockford. As Thompson and Jackson were exiting the car, Wilson and defendant drove up together. Jackson and Wilson argued in the front yard. Then Jackson and defendant argued.

         ¶ 6 Doris Gregory, who was Jackson's girlfriend and was watching his children at the residence, also testified that there were two arguments: one between Jackson and Wilson and one between Jackson and defendant. Gregory testified that defendant was in his vehicle while Jackson and Wilson argued, and that defendant and Jackson argued only after defendant exited his vehicle.

         ¶ 7 Thompson testified that Wilson argued with Jackson outside the home and then turned to enter it. As Wilson started to enter the home, Jackson turned to enter the home. Gregory and Thompson each testified that, as Jackson turned to enter the home, defendant struck Jackson from behind. A fight ensued between defendant and Jackson on the home's enclosed porch. Thompson saw a glass break on the porch floor and heard the children screaming from inside. Gregory saw part of the fight through a glass door, while she was inside helping Wilson's and Jackson's daughter put on a coat.

         ¶ 8 The court heard conflicting testimony about Wilson's participation in the fight. Gregory testified that she saw Wilson argue with Jackson and pick up a wheelchair as if to strike Jackson with it, though Gregory never saw Wilson strike Jackson or hear what Wilson said. Thompson, however, testified that he saw Wilson next to the wheelchair but never saw her pick it up or attempt to strike Jackson. Thompson testified that Wilson did not communicate with defendant.

         ¶ 9 Thompson broke up the fight after four to five minutes. He testified that after the fight defendant threatened Jackson with a knife. Gregory did not see defendant do or say anything after the fight. Jackson suffered a cut over his left eye, bite marks on his head, and scrapes on his elbow and knee.

         ¶ 10 Following the State's case, defendant moved for a directed finding, arguing that the State had not established that defendant and Wilson were acting together in the course of the conduct. He also argued that the fight had not disturbed the public peace, because it took place on an enclosed porch. The State responded that the "acting together" element was satisfied by Gregory's testimony about Wilson's actions with the wheelchair while in close proximity to the fight and by the evidence that Wilson's argument with Jackson was the catalyst of the fight.

         ¶ 11 The trial court found that, when viewed in the light most favorable to the State, the evidence was sufficient to establish mob action. Noting that presence alone is not enough to establish a criminal offense, the court determined that presence may be considered when analyzing whether two people were acting together. The court found that there was unity of purpose between Wilson and defendant, as they were there to pick up Wilson's and Jackson's children and they each argued with Jackson. In ...

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