Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 00 CR 1274
Honorable Catherine K. Haberkorn, Judge Presiding.
JUSTICE NEVILLE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Hyman and Justice Mason concurred
in the judgment and opinion.
1 This case comes before us on remand from our supreme court,
which instructed us to vacate our original judgment and
reconsider the case in light of People v. Cotto,
2016 IL 119006. After a bench trial, the trial court found
Martin Csaszar guilty of solicitation of murder for hire (720
ILCS 5/8-1.2 (West 1998)) and sentenced him to 30 years in
prison. With the assistance of retained counsel, Csaszar
filed a postconviction petition in 2008. The trial court
granted the State's motion to dismiss the petition
without an evidentiary hearing. On appeal, Csaszar argues
only that his retained counsel did not provide reasonable
assistance with postconviction proceedings. We affirm.
3 In 1997, Monica Crisan hired Csaszar to drive a truck for
Livdimon Enterprise Corporation. Csaszar's employment
ended in April 1998. Crisan invited Csaszar to come to her
home to pick up his final paycheck on May 3, 1998. Crisan
deducted from Csaszar's wages an amount for damage to
Livdimon's truck. The amount of the paycheck upset
Csaszar. After Csaszar left Crisan's home, Crisan called
police to report that Csaszar pulled out a gun and threatened
her. Police arrested Csaszar and charged him with aggravated
assault and unlawful use of a weapon. The trial court
continued proceedings on the charges through 1998 and 1999.
4 Csaszar found work driving a truck for Jakacki Bag and
Barrel Company. There he met James Anderson, who worked as a
security officer for Jakacki. In 1999, Csaszar told Anderson
about the criminal charges Crisan initiated against him. On
December 16, 1999, the day before a hearing on the charges,
Csaszar met with Anderson and Mark Shaffer. In a
tape-recorded conversation, Csaszar gave Shaffer $500 in
exchange for Shaffer's promise to kill Crisan. Shaffer,
an undercover agent working for the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), gave a prearranged signal to
Chicago police officers once Csaszar gave him the cash. The
officers arrested Csaszar and prosecutors charged him with
soliciting Shaffer and Anderson to murder Crisan. Csaszar
spoke with an officer and an assistant State's Attorney
at the police station, but he did not sign any statement.
5 Before trial, defense counsel requested a behavioral
clinical examination to evaluate Csaszar's fitness to
stand trial. The trial court granted the request. The
psychiatrist who interviewed Csaszar found him fit to stand
trial and legally sane at the time of the offense.
6 At the bench trial, Crisan testified that on May 3, 1998,
after she gave Csaszar the paycheck he considered inadequate,
he pulled out a gun and pointed it at her. As she looked for
a phone, Csaszar said, "You want to call 9-1-1. *** By
the time they will arrive, you'll be dead." Some
neighbors passed by her home, and Csaszar ran off.
7 Anderson testified that Csaszar asked him to kill Crisan.
When Anderson refused, Csaszar asked him to find someone else
to kill Crisan. Anderson contacted an agent he knew who
worked for ATF. That agent arranged for Shaffer to pose as a
hitman and for recording of further contacts between
Anderson, Shaffer, and Csaszar.
8 Assistant State's Attorney Fabio Valentini testified
that Csaszar admitted he wanted Crisan dead because she
brought charges against him. He had the idea of hiring a
hitman, and he asked Anderson to help him.
9 Csaszar testified that Anderson sought out Csaszar's
company and offered to help him with several problems. When
Csaszar told Anderson about the criminal charges, Anderson
suggested killing Crisan. Anderson arranged for the hitman.
Csaszar could not explain why he met with Anderson and
Shaffer, and why he said what he said in the recorded
10 The trial court found Csaszar guilty of soliciting Shaffer
to murder Crisan for hire and sentenced him to 30 years in
prison. The appellate court affirmed the trial court's
judgment. People v. Csaszar, 375 Ill.App.3d 929
11 In 2006, Csaszar drafted a postconviction petition, but he
never filed it. Instead, in 2007, he hired an attorney to
prepare a postconviction petition for him. He sent the
attorney his draft. In the draft, he claimed that the State
tampered with the videotape of his conversation with Shaffer
and Anderson. Csaszar said, in an affidavit, that he tried to
back away from the deal, but Shaffer said that if Csaszar
made him come all the way to the meeting for nothing, Shaffer
would kill Csaszar and Csaszar's family. Csaszar said
that an inexplicable light appeared ...