from Circuit Court of Schuyler County No. 14CF2 Honorable
Alesia A. McMillen, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Holder White and Pope concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 In January 2014, the State charged defendant, Alan W.
Heller, with domestic battery and aggravated domestic
battery, alleging that he grabbed and strangled his
girlfriend, Tracy Shults. Prior to trial, the State filed a
motion in limine pursuant to section 115-7.4 of the
Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/115-7.4
(West 2014)), seeking to admit evidence of prior domestic
batteries committed by defendant. The trial court granted the
2 At trial, Shults recanted the statements she made to police
that defendant had hit and choked her. The State impeached
her testimony with a recorded statement she made after the
January 11, 2014, incident. In addition, the State introduced
other-crimes testimony of defendant's ex-wife, Barbara
Heller, detailing a domestic battery allegedly committed by
defendant against Barbara in 2010. The jury found defendant
guilty of domestic battery but not guilty of aggravated
domestic battery. The trial court sentenced defendant to
4½ years in prison and imposed several fines and fees.
3 Defendant appeals, raising the following arguments: (1) the
evidence was insufficient to prove defendant guilty beyond a
reasonable doubt of domestic battery, (2) the trial court
abused its discretion by admitting other-crimes evidence, and
(3) various errors occurred concerning the fines and fees
imposed. We disagree and affirm.
4 I. BACKGROUND
5 A. The Charges
6 In January 2014, the State charged defendant with unlawful
possession of methamphetamine (720 ILCS 646/60(a), (b)(1)
(West 2014)), domestic battery (720 ILCS 5/12-3.2(a)(1) (West
2014)) (a Class 4 felony, based on prior convictions), and
aggravated domestic battery (720 ILCS 5/12-3.3(a-5) (West
2014)) (a Class 2 felony). (The State later dismissed the
methamphetamine charge.) The State alleged that defendant
grabbed Shults by the throat.
7 B. The State's Section 115-7.4 Motion in
8 Later that month, the State filed a motion in
limine pursuant to section 115-7.4 of the Code (725 ILCS
5/115-7.4 (West 2014)), seeking to introduce Barbara's
testimony of prior domestic batteries committed by defendant.
In May 2014, the trial court conducted a hearing on that
motion, and Barbara testified that she was defendant's
ex-wife. They married in 2009, separated in 2010, and
dissolved their marriage three months before the hearing. On
January 24, 2010, Barbara and defendant had agreed to get
divorced and were no longer living together. That evening,
Barbara was sleeping on her living room couch with her
three-year-old son when she awakened and discovered defendant
on top of her, punching her in the face approximately 10
times. Barbara testified that defendant threatened to
"slit my throat." He also told her "that
nobody feels sorry for me, nobody was going to make a fool
out of him, and I deserved it." After attacking Barbara,
defendant got up and left. Barbara called the police. The
State then made a proffer of what Shults would testify to at
trial about the charged offenses.
9 Following arguments, the trial court ruled that
Barbara's testimony as to the prior domestic battery
committed by defendant was admissible pursuant to section
115-7.4 of the Code. In reaching that decision, the court
explained, "I find those circumstances very, very
similar, and I really think they're the reason that the
[l]egislature created this statute." The court went on,
"Now, to say it was a choke instead of a hit to the
face, that doesn't make this a different
10 C. The Trial
11 In August 2014, the trial court conducted a jury trial on
the remaining charges of domestic battery and aggravated
12 1. The Jury Instruction Conference
13 Prior to trial, the parties agreed that the following jury
instruction-based on Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions,
Criminal, No. 3.14 (4th ed. 2000) (hereinafter, IPI Criminal
4th No. 3.14)-should be given to the jury concerning the
other-crimes testimony of Barbara:
"Evidence has been received that the defendant has been
involved in conduct other than that charged in the
information. This evidence has been received on the issues of
the factual similarity and proximity in time and may be
considered by you only for that limited purpose. It is for
you to determine whether the defendant was involved in that
conduct, and, if so, what weight should be given to this
evidence on the issues of factual similarity and proximity in
continued to object to Barbara's other-crimes evidence
being admitted. However, he agreed that if the court did
admit that evidence, the aforementioned jury instruction
should be given. The parties likewise agreed to have the
court give the instruction immediately after Barbara's
testimony and again before jury deliberations.
14 2. Opening Statements
15 During its opening statement, the State said the following
about the expected testimony of Barbara:
"You are also going to hear from one other person, Barb
Heller. Barb Heller is, or Barb Sheeley as she may be known,
is the ex-wife of the defendant ***. She is going to testify
about a similar event several years prior in January of 2010
while her [sic] and Mr. Heller, the defendant, were
going through a divorce. He returned to the home in which
they resided and, while she was sleeping on the couch, got on
top of her and commenced striking her in the face, all with
her son present."
16 3. The State's Evidence
17 Shults testified that defendant was her fiancé at
the time of trial and that she had been in a relationship
with him for the past year, including January 11, 2014.
Shults testified further that on January 11, 2014, she was
living with her daughter and defendant in Rushville,
Illinois. That night, she and defendant had an argument about
a message Shults received on her cell phone from a former
romantic partner. Defendant got upset, "thinking that I
was messing around on him." Defendant walked out of the
home, and Shults followed after him, trying to explain the
message. Shults eventually returned to the home, and
defendant followed. They continued arguing inside the home.
At some point, Shults called the police because she wanted
defendant to leave. Shults testified that at no time that
night did the argument turn physical.
18 Shults testified further that she remembered making a
statement to police the evening of January 11 and
participating in a recorded interview with police on January
28, 2014. However, Shults testified that she did not remember
what she had told the officers on those two occasions.
Specifically, she testified that she did not remember saying
that defendant had struck her in the face or that defendant
had choked her by placing his hands around her neck, impeding
her breathing and nearly causing her to lose consciousness.
19 In response, the State completed the impeachment of Shults
by playing the recorded interview in open court. On the
recording, Shults was seen and heard telling police that
defendant sat on top of her while she was on the bed and
choked her twice-once using his hands and once using his
forearm. Shults also told police that defendant punched her
in the chest and jaw. Later, during direct examination,
Shults testified that she told police those things only
because "[t]hey kept asking me over and over, and I just
finally told them what they wanted to hear so they would
20 In addition, the State introduced photographs of Shults
taken the night of January 11, 2014. Shults testified that
the mark on her neck shown in the photographs occurred
because "I break out in hives when I get nervous or
upset." Shults testified further that the marks came
from consensual sex with defendant earlier on January 11.
Shults explained that between January 28, 2014, and the date
of trial, she had called the State's Attorney twice to
recant her recorded statement.
21 Rushville police officer Justin Stinnett testified that on
January 11, 2014, he re- sponded to a 9-1-1 call from Shults.
She and defendant were in their residence when Stinnett
arrived. Stinnett noticed red marks on Shults' throat and
chest. Stinnett spoke with defendant, who gave Stinnett an
explanation of the night's events similar to Shults'
22 Barbara testified that on January 4, 2010, she was married
to defendant but was no longer living with him because they
had decided to divorce. That evening, she was asleep with her
three-year-old son on the living room couch of her home. She
was awakened by defendant hitting her in the face
approximately 10 times. Defendant told Barbara "[t]hat
nobody was going to make a fool out of him and that he would,
he was going to kill me." Barbara's son was in the
room when the attack occurred. During its examination of
Barbara, the State introduced three photographs of
Barbara's face taken while she was in the hospital after
the alleged ...