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People ex rel. Alvarez v. Gaughan

Supreme Court of Illinois

December 1, 2016


          CHIEF JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

          Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, Garman, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 The petitioner, Anita Alvarez, State's Attorney of Cook County, seeks a writ of mandamus (see Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 4(a)) to compel respondent, the Honorable Vincent Gaughan, judge of the circuit court of Cook County, to sentence defendant, Steven Castleberry, with a mandatory 15-year firearm enhancement imposed on each of his two convictions for aggravated criminal sexual assault. See 720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(8), (d)(1) (West 2008) (providing, in subsection (d)(1), that "15 years shall be added to the term of imprisonment imposed by the court" for aggravated criminal sexual assault when the defendant committed the offense of criminal sexual assault while "armed with a firearm, " as specified in subsection (a)(8), thus rendering the criminal sexual assault "aggravated").[1] For the following reasons, we reject arguments interposed against issuance and award the writ.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Following a jury trial, Steven Castleberry was convicted in the circuit court of Cook County of two counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(8) (West 2008)) based on separate acts of oral and vaginal contact with the victim. At sentencing, the State argued that Castleberry was subject to a mandatory 15-year sentencing enhancement on each of the two convictions because the crimes had been committed while Castleberry was armed with a firearm. When added to the mandatory minimum term of six years' imprisonment for each offense, the sentencing enhancements meant Castleberry would be subject to a mandatory minimum term of 21 years' imprisonment on each conviction.

         ¶ 4 The circuit court disagreed with the State, concluding that the legislature had intended the enhancement to be applied only once under the circumstances. Consequently, the circuit court sentenced Castleberry to a nine-year term of imprisonment on each conviction, adding the 15-year enhancement to only one of the sentences. The two sentences were ordered to run consecutively, for a total term of 33 years' imprisonment.

         ¶ 5 Castleberry appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the 15-year enhancement was unconstitutional and, therefore, should not have been applied by the circuit court at all. The appellate court rejected Castleberry's arguments. However, the appellate court went on to address the State's contention that the 15-year enhancement was a mandatory statutory requirement that had to be added to the sentence for each of the two counts on which defendant had been convicted. The appellate court agreed with the State and, invoking the then-extant "void sentence rule, " remanded the matter to the circuit court for resentencing. 2013 IL App (1st) 111791-U, ¶ 38.

         ¶ 6 We allowed defendant's petition for leave to appeal (Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. July 1, 2013)), principally to address "whether the 'void sentence rule, ' which states that '[a] sentence which does not conform to a statutory requirement is void' (People v. Arna, 168 Ill.2d 107, 113 (1995)), should be abandoned, " concluding, ultimately, that it should. People v. Castleberry, 2015 IL 116916, ¶¶ 1, 19. In the course of our analysis we stated that the "appellate court *** had no authority in this case to vacate the circuit court's sentencing order in response to the State's argument." Id. ¶ 25. This court determined, however, that the State was not without a remedy: "The remedy of mandamus *** permits the State to challenge criminal sentencing orders where it is alleged that the circuit court violated a mandatory sentencing requirement, but precludes the State from challenging ordinary, discretionary sentencing decisions." Id. ¶ 27. This court advised: "Nothing in this opinion should be read as preventing the State from filing such a request." Id.

         ¶ 7 Our opinion in Castleberry-issuing that admonishment and abolishing the "void sentence rule" as a means to correct sentences that do not comport with statutory mandates-was filed on November 19, 2015. On November 23, 2015, State's Attorney Alvarez filed in this court a motion for leave to file a petition for writ of mandamus, seeking-as the State had sought in the course of Castleberry's direct appeal-imposition of the 15-year mandatory sentencing enhancement with respect to each of Castleberry's convictions. Judge Gaughan and Castleberry are named as respondents. The attached proof of service indicates that service was effected upon Patricia Mysza, Deputy Defender of the Office of the State Appellate Defender; the Honorable Vincent M. Gaughan, Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County; and "Lisa Madigan, Attorney General of the State of Illinois." The Office of the State Appellate Defender subsequently filed objections to Alvarez's motion on behalf of Castleberry, and its attached proof of service reflects service upon State's Attorney Alvarez, Attorney General Madigan, Judge Gaughan, and Castleberry. On February 19, 2016, this court entered an order allowing Alvarez's motion for leave to file the petition.

         ¶ 8 Of all the filings of record, there are none by the Attorney General. The Attorney General, despite notice of this proceeding, has not objected, nor has she taken a position contrary to that advanced by State's Attorney Alvarez.

         ¶ 9 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 10 "Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy used to compel a public officer to perform nondiscretionary official duties." People ex rel. Senko v. Meersman, 2012 IL 114163, ¶ 9. This court will award mandamus only if the petitioner establishes a clear right to the relief requested, a clear duty of the public officer to act, and clear authority of the public officer to comply with the writ. Id.

         ¶ 11 In its criminal case against Castleberry, the State ultimately proceeded to trial on two counts of the original eight-count indictment. Those counts alleged that Castleberry violated section 12-14(a)(8) of the Criminal Code of 1961 in that he committed acts of sexual penetration upon the victim, by the use of force or threat of force, while he was "armed with a firearm." See 720 ILCS 5/12-14(a)(8) (West 2008). In count 3, the State alleged oral penetration; in count 6, the State alleged vaginal penetration. A jury returned guilty verdicts on both counts. As the State observes, "the jury's verdict demonstrated that it found beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant committed two distinct acts of sexual penetration by force while armed with a firearm. The fact that the same gun was used as an element of both counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault while armed with a firearm is immaterial ***." Thus, the State argues, two convictions, based on two separate acts of sexual penetration while armed with a firearm, warrant the imposition of two separate sentence enhancements, one for each offense.

         ¶ 12 Castleberry answers by arguing that (1) a conflict in statutes defeats a "clear right to relief, " (2) the State's Attorney does not have standing to sue in this court on behalf of the People of the State of Illinois, and (3) the relief sought is barred by the equitable doctrine of laches. We note, at the outset, that counsel for respondent Castleberry conceded, at oral argument, that the 15-year sentence add-on should have ...

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