from the Circuit Court of the 21st Judicial Circuit, Iroquois
County, Illinois. Circuit No. 14-CF-44 Honorable Gordon L.
Lustfeldt, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE LYTTON delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Holdridge and Justice O'Brien
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 Defendant, Jose Ramon Villanueva, Jr., appeals his
convictions for predatory criminal sexual assault of a child,
criminal sexual assault, and criminal sexual abuse, arguing
(1) the circuit court's comments in front of the jury
shifted the burden of proof to defendant and (2) the circuit
court should have conducted a Krankel inquiry. We
3 Defendant was charged with (1) predatory criminal sexual
assault of a child in that he was 17 years of age or older
and committed an act of sexual penetration with R.D., who was
under 13 years of age, by placing his penis in R.D.'s
vagina (720 ILCS 5/11-1.40(a)(1) (West 2014)); (2) criminal
sexual assault in that he committed an act of sexual
penetration with I.V. in that he placed his penis in
I.V.'s vagina through the use of force (720 ILCS
5/11-1.20(a)(1) (West 2014)); and (3) criminal sexual abuse
in that he committed an act of sexual conduct with I.V. in
that he forced I.V. to touch his penis for the purpose of his
sexual arousal (720 ILCS 5/11-1.50(a)(1) (West 2014)).
4 The case proceeded to a jury trial. The court asked the
jurors if they understood that: "The defendant's
presumed innocent of the charges. That before he can be
convicted he must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The defendant is not required to offer any evidence on his or
her behalf. And if the defendant does not testify you
can't hold it against him." Each of the jurors
agreed that they understood.
5 I.V. was 23 years old at the time of trial and testified
that when she was five years old, she and her three siblings,
including George D. and Selena D., moved in with their
grandparents, Rosa and Jose Villanueva, Sr., and their
uncles, Robert and defendant. Shortly after I.V. and her
siblings moved in, their four cousins, including R.D., also
moved in. In sum, Rosa, Jose Sr., Robert, defendant, and the
eight children all lived in the house. The house had two
floors. The second floor contained three bedrooms: defendant
had one bedroom; the boys, including George, shared one
bedroom; and there was a spare bedroom. On the first floor,
I.V., Selena, and R.D. slept in the dining room; Rosa and
Jose Sr. had a room; and Robert slept in the living room.
According to I.V., Rosa, Jose Sr., and Robert could not go
upstairs because of health issues. I.V. said the house was in
defendant's name and he was responsible for disciplining
the children. Four years prior to trial, defendant moved out
of the house and moved in with his girlfriend. For purposes
of clarity, we will refer to the house defendant owned that
the children lived in as the family house and the house he
moved in with his girlfriend as the second house.
6 I.V. testified that defendant would hit the children. She
occasionally had to miss school due to having a black eye or
other injuries. Throughout her entire school experience, I.V.
was in special education classes because she had a disability
that affected her memory. She was not good with numbers and
dates because of her disability. She moved out of the family
house when she was 19 years old after getting married.
7 I.V. testified that when she was about eight years old, she
was disciplined by defendant because she "couldn't
read the book and he kept hitting [her]. [She] was
crying." Defendant told I.V. to go upstairs. They went
into his bedroom, and defendant locked the door. There was a
door that led to another bedroom, which defendant also
locked. Defendant had a television with a DVD player.
Defendant played a pornography DVD. While they were viewing
the pornography, defendant masturbated. He did this on
multiple occasions. On other occasions, defendant forced I.V.
to touch his penis and perform oral sex.
8 When I.V. turned 14 years old, defendant began forcing I.V.
to have sexual intercourse with him. This would happen in
defendant's room with pornography playing. Defendant
would make excuses to call I.V. upstairs, stating that she
needed to fold his laundry or clean his room. This went on
until I.V. was 19 years old and left the family house.
Afterwards, defendant would tell I.V. not to tell anyone.
9 I.V. stated that the first time they had sexual
intercourse, George saw them. He was in the bedroom next door
and saw them through a crack at the top of the door. Later,
at a family meeting, George told everyone what he saw, and
I.V. confirmed that it was true. At the meeting, defendant
was asked if the allegations were true, and he denied it.
I.V. said that defendant's denial "made [her] look
10 I.V. testified that the abuse also occurred in the garage.
Defendant was the only person who had a key or a garage door
opener, even after he moved out. After defendant moved into
the second house, he would stay in the garage when he fought
with his girlfriend. There was a couch and a makeshift bed in
the garage. When defendant was in the garage, he would tell
I.V. to come into the garage. Defendant forced I.V. to have
sexual intercourse and perform oral sex on him. I.V. said the
abuse also occurred at the second house. She sometimes missed
school to babysit defendant's child and his
stepdaughter's child. Defendant was present while she was
babysitting, and they would have sexual intercourse.
11 Defendant taught I.V. to drive when she got her permit.
During these driving lessons, defendant would force I.V. to
perform oral sex on him. They also had sexual intercourse in
the backseat. Selena and R.D. came on one of these driving
lessons, but defendant said they were "disturbing
[I.V.'s] driving" so they were not allowed to come
again. Because of her disability, I.V. did not remember
specific dates of the abuse.
12 Selena and R.D. both were kicked out of the family house
in the year prior to trial. I.V. agreed that she never went
to the police until R.D. was kicked out of the family house.
She said, "I kept to myself because no one believed me
especially my own flesh and blood, my family." She
stated it did not "have [anything] to do" with R.D.
being kicked out.
13 R.D. testified that she was four years old when she went
to live at the family house. She said the children basically
took care of themselves. She also stated that defendant was
mean and used physical violence as a form of discipline.
14 R.D. testified that in 2006 "[defendant] raped
[her]." She said that defendant would tell her she was
in trouble and make her go upstairs to his bedroom. He would
lock the door and "tell [her] close your eyes and put
his penis in [her] mouth and stuff like that and make [her]
do stuff that [she] didn't want to do." Defendant
would also lock the door that led to another bedroom, though
the door had a crack at the top. He would force R.D. to have
sexual intercourse. R.D. said this happened approximately
four or five times over the period of a year when she was
eight or nine. R.D. said, at one point, "[Defendant]
tried to do it again, but I put my foot down and I didn't
let him do it ever again." After that, she told Robert,
Rosa, and Jose Sr. what defendant was doing. Defendant denied
doing anything, and Robert, Rosa, and Jose Sr. believed
defendant. I.V. was present when R.D. told her family what
had happened. I.V. had disclosed her abuse by defendant on an
earlier date. R.D. said the family "kind of did
believe" I.V. because George had seen I.V. and defendant
having sexual intercourse, but that they "ended up being
on [defendant's] side." R.D. testified that
defendant would watch VHS tapes of pornography in his bedroom
all the time.
15 R.D. said she got kicked out of the family house because
she got into an argument with Robert. He had kicked her out
on numerous occasions, but would always tell her to come
back. At the time she got kicked out of the family house,
R.D. and Selena were the only children still living there.
R.D. said defendant did not have anything to do with her
getting kicked out of the family house.
16 Once R.D. got kicked out of the family house, she told the
police what happened. She did not go to the police earlier
because she was scared as she was still living in the family
house. She said, "[Selena] told me it was the right
thing to do and she was going to be on my side throughout the
whole thing." When asked if she was getting back at her
family because she was asked to leave, R.D. said she was not
getting back at them because she wanted to leave the family
house. Once she left, she said she was finally "strong
enough" to tell the police when she was not before.
17 R.D. said she and Selena were present once when defendant
was teaching I.V. to drive, but, even though they were not
talking, defendant told them they could not come again
because they were distracting I.V. R.D. stated that he always
had "eyes on [I.V.]"
18 Selena testified that defendant had a DVD/VCR player in
his bedroom. Once defendant moved out, they cleaned his room
and found lots of pictures of I.V. in his closet. Selena
remembered that at a family meeting, I.V. told everyone what
defendant was doing to her and no one believed her. At this
meeting, George told the family that he saw defendant
assaulting I.V., but the family did not believe him. Later, a
similar meeting occurred regarding R.D. Selena further stated
that she had once gone with I.V. when she was learning to
drive, but defendant got mad. Selena said she was kicked out
of the family house because she was accused of calling to
report that Robert and Rosa were committing elder abuse. She
said she was not unhappy about being kicked out, as she was
going move in with her boyfriend anyway.
19 Sergeant Eric Starkey testified that he had been employed
with the Iroquois County sheriff's department for
approximately 10 years. He investigated the allegations of
sexual abuse by I.V. and R.D. against defendant. He
interviewed defendant. Defendant initially told Starkey he
had never been alone with any of the children and had never
taught I.V. how to drive. Defendant further stated that he
did not have any pornography in the family house and denied
physically or sexually abusing the girls.
20 After speaking with some of the other family members,
Starkey interviewed defendant a second time. Through his
other interviews, inconsistencies developed regarding whether
defendant had been alone with any of the children, had
pornography, and had taught I.V. to drive. Starkey stated
that defendant gave him no concrete answers about any of the
inconsistencies, but simply acknowledged that there may have
been inconsistencies. Defendant answered Starkey very
vaguely, but ultimately agreed that he might have been alone
with the children sometime during the long period that they
21 Nathan Gavel testified that he is a child protection
advanced specialist with the Department of Children and
Family Services as an investigator. Gavel interviewed Rosa
and Robert. Rosa indicated that she did not know of any abuse
going on in the family house. Gavel said that Robert
mentioned the girls had been upstairs, but said he did not
know what went on upstairs, since he could not walk up the
stairs. Robert told Gavel that he and defendant would
discipline the children, and Robert knew they had been
disciplined upstairs as he saw them at the top of the stairs.
22 After the State rested, the defense called Jennifer Corona
Gomez, who testified that she was defendant's
stepdaughter and lived with her mother and defendant at the
second house. She was I.V.'s age and went to school with
her. She testified that I.V. would come over "[v]ery
rarely." When she did come over, it was to babysit
Gomez's brother or for driving lessons. I.V. never told
Gomez that she was abused by defendant. Gomez agreed that if
defendant and her mother had an argument, defendant would
stay in the garage at the family house.
23 George D. testified that he never observed any sexual
activity between defendant and any of the girls. He further
stated that there were never any family meetings about any
reports by any of the girls of sexual activity with
defendant. None of the girls ever told him they were abused
24 Robert testified that defendant's room did not have a
VCR. The door between defendant's bedroom and the other
bedroom was nailed shut and there were no cracks. Robert did
not remember any of the girls complaining to the family that
defendant had abused them. George did not say anything to him
either. Robert said R.D. left the family house on her own
accord. Robert further stated that defendant took I.V.
driving a couple of times. Robert said I.V. never went to the
second house to babysit or for any other reason. Selena was
the only person who had gone to the second ...