Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 13 CR 13758
Honorable Mary Margaret Brosnahan, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE NEVILLE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justice Pierce concurred in the judgment. Presiding
Justice Hyman dissented, with opinion.
1 Following a jury trial, Anthony Wilson, the defendant, was
convicted of delivery of a controlled substance within 1, 000
feet of a church and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment.
On appeal, defendant contends that his sentence is
disproportionate to the seriousness of his offense and
constitutes an abuse of discretion by the trial court. We
2 Defendant was charged with one count of delivery of a
controlled substance and one count of delivery of a
controlled substance within 1, 000 feet of a church. At
trial, two police officers testified and established that
defendant sold two bags of white powder to an undercover
officer near 3724 West Lexington in Chicago on June 22, 2013.
A forensic scientist testified that the powder weighed 1.04
grams and tested positive for heroin. Additionally, the State
entered a stipulation between the parties that defendant was
arrested 410 feet from a church. The jury found defendant
guilty on both counts. The court merged the counts and the
case proceeded to sentencing.
3 At sentencing, the parties established that defendant had
prior felony convictions for possession of a stolen motor
vehicle (1986); attempted robbery (1989); delivery of a
look-alike substance (1991); burglary (1992); possession of a
controlled substance (1996, 1997, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008,
2010, and two convictions from 1995); and manufacturing or
delivery of a controlled substance (2007). The presentence
investigation report (PSI) indicated that defendant was the
youngest of four siblings and had a "normal
childhood." He graduated from high school and worked as
a clerk at a hardware store from 1979 to 1989. At the time of
his arrest, he lived with his mother and provided for his
five adult children "when he was able." Defendant
denied using alcohol, but admitted to using "several
bags" of heroin each day "for years" before
his arrest. He "detoxed" while in custody and was
no longer addicted at the time of sentencing. Defendant
denied gang affiliation, but the Chicago Police Department
reported that defendant was a member of the Conservative Vice
4 In aggravation, the State argued that defendant "began
a life of drug dealing and drug possession at a very early
age" and had committed both drug-related and non-drug
related offenses. The State also noted that defendant had
been sentenced to terms of one to five years for his 14 prior
felony convictions. Based on defendant's continued drug
dealing and "life of crime, " the State requested a
sentence "much higher" than the sentences he had
5 In mitigation, defense counsel argued that defendant was 48
years old at sentencing, had been addicted to heroin since
age 24, and had spent "at least half of his adult
life" in prison. According to counsel, defendant was a
"product of his environment" and his addiction
caused him to surround himself with people "involved in
the drug trade." Counsel acknowledged that
defendant's background was "not mitigating, "
but "aggravating in ever[y] sense of the word."
However, counsel urged that defendant was a nonviolent
"petty" offender and only sold drugs to
"support his own habit." Additionally, counsel
observed that defendant had been respectful throughout the
proceedings and had family, including his elderly mother, who
cared about him. Consequently, counsel argued that defendant
did not qualify for a sentence at the "high end of the
sentencing range" and that a nine-year term would be
appropriate. Defendant declined to speak in allocution.
6 The court sentenced defendant to 15 years'
imprisonment. In imposing sentence, the court stated that it
had considered the evidence and arguments, and recited each
statutory factor in mitigation and aggravation. The court
found the only applicable mitigating factor was the hardship
that defendant's Class X sentence would cause his family
and the "people that he has a relationship with."
The court could not discern whether defendant's
"character and attitude" indicated he was likely to
commit another crime, but noted that his "past
behavior" suggested that his conduct "will likely
recur." Moreover, the court stated that defendant had a
"very significant history of prior delinquency, "
which rivaled "the top five of any [criminal background]
I've seen in such a short amount of time for somebody of
the Defendant's age." According to the court,
defendant's 14 prior felony convictions "weigh[ed]
very, very significantly" and demonstrated that "at
no time from 1986 until 2013 can he sustain any period of
time whatsoever without committing offenses." The court
observed that the present offense was nonviolent and that
defendant's sentence would not deter other offenders.
However, "[b]alancing everything together, "
including the nature of defendant's Class X offense, his
criminal background, and the factors in aggravation and
mitigation, the court concluded that a nine-year sentence
would "deprecate the seriousness of this case coupled
with his background."
7 Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration of sentence,
which the court denied.
8 On appeal, defendant acknowledges that the trial court
"considered the statutory factors in aggravation and
mitigation, " but contends he was not sentenced
according to the seriousness of his offense or with the goal
of rehabilitation. Defendant submits that his 15-year term is
disproportionate to the $20 drug transaction, exceeds the
average sentence for "more serious" crimes, and
contravenes the purpose of the Illinois Controlled Substances
Act (720 ILCS 570 et seq. (West 2014)) by punishing
him like a drug "trafficker" rather than a
"petty distributor." Defendant also argues that his
term of imprisonment exceeds his prior sentences, and that
courts have reduced comparable sentences for "more
serious" crimes, even for repeat offenders. Moreover,
defendant claims that the court "gave no
indication" it had considered his addiction, his age, or
the fact his criminal history involved "minor"
crimes. Defendant acknowledges that his "extensive
criminal history" tends to "undercut his potential
for rehabilitation, " and that his offense caused social
harm "deserving of some retribution, " but submits
that his drug addiction, "life situation, " and
nonviolent conduct favor leniency.
9 In response, the State argues that the trial court did not
abuse its discretion where it considered the factors in
aggravation and mitigation, including defendant's prior
felony convictions, before imposing a term 15 years below the
statutory maximum. Defendant, in reply, maintains that his
sentence nonetheless must be reviewed for "substantive
reasonableness" and does not serve the penological goals
of deterrence, rehabilitation, incapacitation, or
10 The reviewing court considers a trial court's
sentencing decision with an abuse-of-discretion standard of
review. People v. Alexander, 239 Ill.2d 205, 212
(2010). A sentence will be considered an abuse of discretion
where it is " 'greatly at variance with the spirit
and purpose of the law, or manifestly disproportionate to the
nature of the offense.' " Id. (quoting
People v. Stacey, 193 Ill.2d 203, 210 (2000)).
However, "[t]he trial court has broad discretionary
powers in imposing a sentence, and its sentencing decisions
are entitled to great deference." Id. This is
because the trial judge "observed the defendant and the
proceedings, " and is better positioned to weigh factors
such as the defendant's credibility, demeanor, general
moral character, mentality, social environment, habits, and
age. Id. at 212-13.
11 A sentence should reflect both the seriousness of the
offense and the objective of restoring the offender to useful
citizenship. Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, § 11; People
v. McWilliams, 2015 IL App (1st) 130913, ¶ 27.
However, the seriousness of an offense, and not mitigating
evidence, is the most important factor in sentencing.
People v. Kelley, 2015 IL App (1st) 132782, ¶
94. The trial court is presumed to consider "all
relevant factors and any mitigation evidence presented"
(People v. Jackson, 2014 IL App (1st) 123258, ¶
48), but has no obligation to recite and assign a value to
each factor (People v. Perkins, 408 Ill.App.3d 752,
763 (2011)). Rather, a defendant "must make an
affirmative showing that the sentencing court did not
consider the relevant factors." People v.
Burton, 2015 IL App (1st) 131600, ¶ 38. A reviewing
court " 'must not substitute its judgment for that
of the trial court merely because it would have weighed these