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People v. Wilson

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

September 30, 2016

ANTHONY WILSON, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal 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 affirm.

         ¶ 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).[1] 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 Lords.

         ¶ 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 previously received.

         ¶ 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 retribution.

         ¶ 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, ΒΆ 38. A reviewing court " 'must not substitute its judgment for that of the trial court merely because it would have weighed these ...

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