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People v. Villanueva

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

May 30, 2017

JOSE RAMON VILLANUEVA, JR., Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal 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 affirm.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 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.[1] 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 stupid."

         ¶ 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 lived there.

         ¶ 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 by defendant.

         ¶ 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 ...

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