from the Circuit Court of Stephenson County, No. 13-CF-28
Honorable Michael P. Bald, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE SPENCE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Burke and Birkett concurred in the judgment
1 This case presents a matter of statutory construction.
Defendant, Ricardo Vara, was convicted of grooming pursuant
to section 11-25 of the Criminal Code of 2012 (Code) (720
ILCS 5/11-25 (West 2012)), in that he sent a text message to
J.D., an 11-year-old girl, stating that he wanted to make
love to her "pink hot pussy." On appeal, defendant
argues solely that, to be convicted of grooming, section
11-25 required that he enticed J.D. in order that
J.D. commit a sex offense. Because we interpret the
statute as requiring that defendant enticed J.D. to engage in
sexual conduct with defendant-in order that
defendant could commit a sex offense-we affirm.
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 Defendant was charged with one count of grooming pursuant
to section 11-25 of the Code (the grooming statute).
Id. The State alleged that on or about January 14,
"knowingly used a *** cellular device to entice J.D. a
child, to commit the offense of Predatory Criminal Sexual
Assault of a Child, in violation of 720 ILCS 5/11-1.40, in
that he sent a text message to J.D.'s phone stating that
he wanted to make love to 'ur pink hot pussy'."
4 On May 13, 2014, defendant waived his right to a jury
trial, and the case proceeded to a stipulated bench trial.
The State provided the following evidence, and defense
counsel agreed that the State's witnesses, if called,
would testify in substantially the same manner. First,
Freeport police officer Coplien would testify as follows. On
February 5, 2013, Coplien responded to a complaint of
explicit text messages sent to J.D. Upon arriving at the
complainant's home, Coplien saw defendant standing
outside. Defendant's date of birth was August 14, 1955.
Coplien spoke with defendant, and defendant told him that he
had made a mistake by sending a text message to the wrong
5 Coplien then went inside and spoke to J.D.'s parents.
Nicole M. was J.D.'s mother. Nicole told Coplien that
J.D. had shown Nicole her cellular phone. J.D. had received
text messages that upset her. It was later determined that
the text messages came from defendant's phone number.
Nicole gave Coplien J.D.'s phone.
6 One of the text messages on JD.'s phone read, verbatim:
"I'w say yes jazzy I wih I was thar making love to
ur pink hot pussy Come- On jazz.u now u got to cl I'w be
work win u cl.But cl after, 430 . &Beeztw8
9.I'wse". The message was sent from defendant's
phone number on January 14, 2013. J.D. replied with several
text messages to defendant, sending the following on January
23, 2013: "Why do u keep sending me dirty messages,
" "Can u answer that, " and "why do u
want me to call." The messages were signed
7 Nicole told Coplien that she confronted defendant about the
messages sent to J.D.'s phone. Defendant claimed that he
sent the messages by accident.
8 Coplien returned to defendant and asked to see his phone.
Defendant allowed him to look at his text messages but did
not allow him to handle his phone. Instead, defendant
scrolled through the messages while Coplien observed. Based
on his observations, including observing that the phone
number on defendant's phone matched the phone number for
the messages sent to J.D.'s phone, he arrested defendant
and seized his phone. He placed defendant's and
J.D.'s phones in the Freeport police department's
9 J.D. would testify as follows. She was 12 years old at the
time of trial and 11 years old when she received
defendant's text message from January 14, 2013. Defendant
had been living with her and her family for a period of time,
and he paid rent to her parents. Sometimes, defendant took
her shopping and bought her gifts. He gave her a cell phone,
paid the bill on the cell phone, and gave her a tablet
computer. They spoke often. Defendant wanted J.D. to call and
text him frequently. He was 57 years old when he sent her the
text message in this case.
10 J.D. would identify the text message defendant sent to her
cellular phone. She also would confirm the text messages that
she sent to defendant. Defendant referred to her in his text
message as "Jazzy" or "Jazz."
11 Next, defense counsel presented defendant's testimony,
and the State agreed that defendant would testify as follows.
Defendant had sent his text message to J.D. in error. The
message was intended for two other individuals, Felicia C.
and Jennifer D. He explained this to Coplien when they spoke
on February 5, 2013.
12 Further, defendant would explain that some of the text
messages on his phone were taken out of context and that some
of the messages were intended for J.D.'s family in
general, not specifically for J.D. He and the family had
"a falling out" over some financial issues. Some
money had been "misplaced." He would argue that
money was the motivation behind this incident.
13 After the presentation of the stipulated evidence, the
State argued that defendant knowingly used his cellular phone
to entice J.D. in order to commit predatory criminal sexual
assault of a child, in that his words proposed or encouraged
coitus between J.D. and himself. Defense counsel responded in
part by asking the court ...