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People v. Evans

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

January 10, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
PAUL J. EVANS III, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County, No. 10-CF-2408; the Hon. Amy Bertani-Tomczak, Judge, presiding.

          Michael J. Pelletier and Sean Conley, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Ottawa, for appellant.

          James Glasgow, State's Attorney, of Joliet (Gary F. Gnidovec, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

          JUSTICE O'BRIEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Carter concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          O'BRIEN JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Defendant, Paul J. Evans III, pled guilty to home invasion (720 ILCS 5/12-11(a)(1) (West 2010)) and was sentenced to a term of 12 years' imprisonment. Defendant has tried to challenge that sentence as excessive through a postsentencing motion numerous times, but each time this court has remanded the matter on appeal either because defense counsel failed to strictly comply with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (eff. Mar. 8, 2016) or on jurisdictional grounds. Following our latest remand, the trial court again denied defendant's motion to reduce sentence. On this appeal, defendant once again argues that his attorney failed to strictly comply with Rule 604(d). Once again, we agree with defendant and must remand the matter for strict compliance with that rule.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 Defendant entered an open plea of guilty to one count of home invasion in exchange for the nolle prosequi of the remaining charges. On November 16, 2011, the trial court sentenced defendant to a term of 12 years' imprisonment. The court also made a finding of great bodily harm, in turn ordering that defendant serve 85% of his sentence.

         ¶ 4 Defendant filed a motion to reconsider sentence on December 1, 2011. This motion to reconsider sentence would be the first of three such motions filed in a two-year span. Each time, the trial court denied the motion, and defendant appealed. On each appeal, this court remanded the matter because counsel had not strictly complied with the certification requirements of Rule 604(d). See People v. Evans, 2015 IL App (3d) 140753, ¶¶ 4-7 (providing detailed procedural history).

         ¶ 5 On September 25, 2014, following this court's third remand for Rule 604(d) compliance, but prior to this court's mandate being issued, defense counsel filed a new motion to reconsider sentence and a Rule 604(d) certificate. In that filing, counsel certified, inter alia: "Counsel has examined the Trial Court file and report of proceedings of the plea of guilty and was the original counsel at both the plea and the sentencing hearing." The trial court denied the motion prior to the issuance of the mandate.

         ¶ 6 This court subsequently held that the trial court was without jurisdiction to rule on the motion (id. ¶ 14) because the mandate from this court had not yet issued. The trial court's decision was void and therefore vacated. Id. ¶¶ 14, 17.

         ¶ 7 On January 8, 2016, defense counsel filed-for the fifth time-a motion to reconsider sentence and a Rule 604(d) certificate. In this certificate, as in the fourth certificate, defense counsel certified: "Counsel has examined the Trial Court file and report of proceedings of the plea of guilty and was the original counsel at both the plea and the sentencing hearing." The trial court denied the motion.

         ¶ 8 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 9 On this appeal, defendant argues that counsel has, once again, failed to strictly comply with the certification requirements of Rule 604(d). Defendant contends that strict compliance with the rule is mandatory and that the matter should therefore be remanded for such compliance. The State argues that defense counsel was not required to file a Rule 604(d) certificate at all. Alternatively, the State argues that defendant has ...


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