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People v. Lewis

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

April 19, 2017

TRAVIS E. LEWIS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 14CF1446 Honorable Harry E. Clem, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Appleton and Knecht concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 In January 2015, a jury found defendant, Travis E. Lewis, guilty of aggravated battery. The trial court later sentenced him to five years in prison.

         ¶ 2 Defendant appeals, arguing that he was denied a fair trial because (1) the trial court erroneously allowed the jury to consider an improperly admitted prior inconsistent statement as substantive evidence in violation of section 115-10.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/115-10.1 (West 2014)) and (2) the State impermissibly vouched for a witness's credibility during its closing argument. Defendant also argues that he was entitled to a $100 presentence credit against his eligible fines.

         ¶ 3 For the reasons that follow, we affirm defendant's conviction and five-year sentence. Because we accept the parties' agreement that defendant is entitled to the application of a $100 presentence credit to satisfy the fines the trial court imposed, we remand with directions.

         ¶ 4 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 In October 2014, the State charged defendant with aggravated battery, alleging that he strangled Valisa Byndum (720 ILCS 5/12-3.05(a)(5) (West 2014)).

         ¶ 6 A. The Trial Evidence

         ¶ 7 At defendant's January 2015 jury trial, the following evidence was presented.

         ¶ 8 1. The State's Evidence

         ¶ 9 Byndum testified that she knew defendant through his sister, Rachel Simmons, whom Byndum considered her best friend. At some point, defendant acquired Byndum's cellular phone number and sent her text messages of a suggestive and explicit nature that made Byndum uncomfortable. Byndum initially ignored defendant's texts, but when he persisted, Byndum told defendant that she was not interested in a relationship. Eventually, Byndum told defendant that if he did not stop texting her, she would tell defendant's girlfriend about his messages.

         ¶ 10 On October 17, 2014, Byndum drove Rachel to the apartment of Hailey Simmons, Rachel's cousin. Upon entering, Byndum noticed defendant, who immediately walked up to Byndum, grabbed the phone she was holding, and walked toward the bathroom. Rachel intervened, took the phone from defendant, and returned it to Byndum. Defendant then approached Byndum as she stood in the kitchen of Hailey's apartment and reached for her neck. Byndum stepped back toward a wall, and Rachel placed herself between Byndum and defendant. Defendant reached around Rachel with one hand and choked Byndum, which caused her pain and knocked her eyeglasses off her face. Byndum estimated that defendant obstructed her breathing for a couple of seconds. Thereafter, Byndum drove away from the apartment and later called the police to report the incident.

         ¶ 11 Champaign police officer Justin Prosser testified that on October 17, 2014, he responded to a dispatch regarding a battery. Upon his arrival at a location later determined to be the home of Byndum's mother, Prosser questioned Byndum privately and then questioned Rachel in Byndum's presence. Prosser prepared a written report regarding their respective accounts. Prosser did not see any injuries or bruising on Byndum, which he opined was not unusual.

         ¶ 12 2. Defendant's Evidence

         ¶ 13 Defendant testified that he had known Byndum for about six years. On October 17, 2014, defendant was at Hailey's home with approximately six other people. Rachel and Byndum later entered the home. Defendant approached Byndum and asked to see her phone. When Byndum "pulled her phone out, " defendant took it and went into the bathroom. Defendant intended to delete certain text messages from Byndum's phone, characterizing them as "inappropriate" messages that they had mutually exchanged. Defendant explained that a week earlier, Byndum threatened to show the inappropriate exchanges to his girlfriend.

         ¶ 14 Byndum and Rachel followed defendant into the bathroom, where Byndum began hitting and pushing him. Defendant understood that Byndum was acting out because he had possession of her phone. Defendant gave the phone to Rachel, and Rachel returned it to Byndum. As defendant exited the bathroom, Byndum continued attacking defendant. Defendant went into the kitchen, and Rachel placed herself between defendant and Byndum. Rachel asked Byndum to stop hitting defendant. Defendant admitted that while Rachel was between them, he grabbed Byndum's arm with one hand and pushed her with the other. Defendant denied that he made contact with Byndum's neck. Defendant did not hear Byndum gasp for air or complain that she was being choked.

         ¶ 15 During defendant's direct examination, the following exchange occurred:

"[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: After Rachel was standing between you, what happened?
[DEFENDANT]: After the incident within itself, what happened between the choking and stuff? Byndum left. Rachel left."

         ¶ 16 During the State's cross-examination, defendant acknowledged that he responded to defense counsel's question by referring to "the choking and stuff" but denied that any choking occurred.

         ¶ 17 Hailey testified that on October 17, 2014, several of her cousins visited her apartment, and she noticed a commotion in her kitchen involving Byndum, Rachel, and defendant. Hailey observed Rachel between Byndum and defendant "playing the peacemaker" by attempting "to restrain Byndum from hitting [defendant]." During their altercation, Hailey did not see defendant grab Byndum by her neck.

         ¶ 18 Rachel testified that on October 17, 2014, she and Byndum went to Hailey's apartment, where they encountered defendant. Shortly after their arrival, Rachel observed defendant take Byndum's phone and walk into the bathroom. Rachel followed Byndum into the bathroom, where Rachel took the phone away from defendant and returned it to Byndum. After leaving the bathroom, defendant and Byndum got into an argument in the kitchen of Hailey's home. Rachel stood between them, facing defendant. Rachel testified that Byndum and defendant were "swatting" at each other. Because of the space Rachel occupied between defendant and Byndum, Rachel prevented them from making contact with each other. Rachel did not see defendant place his hands on Byndum's neck or hear Byndum gasp for air. At one point, Rachel saw defendant push Byndum back. Rachel estimated that the incident ended quickly.

         ¶ 19 Later that night, Rachel went to the home of Byndum's mother, where Byndum was present. Rachel testified that she spoke to Officer Prosser there regarding the earlier incident between Byndum and defendant.

         ¶ 20 During the State's cross-examination of Rachel, the following exchange occurred:

"[THE STATE]: So you did decide to talk to *** Prosser; is that correct?
[RACHEL]: Correct.
[THE STATE]: Do you remember what you told [Prosser]?
[RACHEL]: Oh, yes, I remember some of the stuff that I told him.
[THE STATE]: Do you remember telling him that your cousin, the defendant, choked your friend, Rachel-or excuse me, you're ...

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