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In re Commitment of Chester

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

September 20, 2017

Earl Chester, Respondent-Appellant The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County.No. 07 CR 80008 Honorable Thomas J. Bryne, Judge, presiding.

          Justices Fitzgerald Smith and Pucinski concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Following a stipulated adjudication as a sexually violent person pursuant to the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (Act) (725 ILCS 207/1 et seq. (West 2006)), respondent, Earl Chester, appeals from the circuit court's denial of his motion to withdraw his stipulation and its order committing him to the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) for institutional treatment. He contends that the trial court erred in accepting his stipulation because (1) the Act does not provide for stipulations and (2) the court failed to conduct a fitness hearing prior to accepting the stipulation. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On August 16, 2007, the State filed a petition to commit respondent as a sexually violent person under the Act. In its petition, the State alleged that respondent (1) was found guilty of sexual assault in the circuit court of Cook County and sentenced to 22 years in the Department of Corrections, (2) had been diagnosed with paraphilia, not otherwise specified, non-consenting persons (PNOS), a mental disorder which predisposes respondent to commit acts of sexual violence, and (3) was dangerous because his mental disorder created a substantial probability that he would engage in acts of sexual violence in the future.

         ¶ 4 In support of its petition, the State included the report of a psychological evaluation of respondent conducted by Dr. Ray Quackenbush, Psy.D. Prior to the evaluation, the doctor informed respondent of the nature and structure of the proceedings under the Act. In his report, Dr. Quackenbush indicated that respondent articulated his understanding of the information and consented to the interview. As part of the evaluation, Dr. Quackenbush interviewed respondent, reviewed his arrest and conviction history, and examined respondent's prison disciplinary and medical files. Several assessment methods were used to determine respondent's level of risk for committing future sexually violent offenses. Respondent was diagnosed with (1) paraphilia not otherwise specified, non-consenting victims, (2) polysubstance dependence, and (3) antisocial personality disorder. Based on the evaluation, Dr. Quackenbush concluded that respondent showed a substantial and continuing risk for sexual offense recidivism and his actions met the criteria for PNOS. As such, he recommended that respondent be found to be a sexually violent person under and the Act and subject to civil commitment for clinical intervention to prevent respondent from engaging in future acts of sexual violence. On September 11, 2007, the court found probable cause to believe that respondent was a sexually violent person and, pursuant to section 30(c) of the Act, ordered respondent to participate in an evaluation to determine whether he was a sexually violent person. On that same date, both respondent and the State filed a demand for a jury trial.

         ¶ 5 On January 9, 2008, upon respondent's request, the court ordered Dr. Eric Ostrov to conduct any and all examinations of respondent in preparation of his defense in the commitment proceeding.[1] The matter was continued by agreement of the parties over the course of the next several years. On July 13, 2010, the court granted the State's motion for a current sexually violent person evaluation of respondent. Because Dr. Quackenbush was no longer available, the State requested that the Department of Corrections be directed to assign an evaluator to perform a current evaluation of respondent. Although the State asserts that Dr. John Arroyo submitted evaluation reports concerning respondent on December 2010, September 25, 2013 and November 25, 2013 and that Dr. Kimberly Weitl submitted reports on October 26, 2007, February 15, 2010, June 18, 2013 and October 31, 2013, those reports do not appear in the record.

         ¶ 6 Trial in this matter commenced and the jury was sworn in on March 9, 2015. On March 10, 2015, prior to proceeding with trial, the parties tendered a stipulation in which they agreed that respondent was waiving his right to a jury trial; the State's evaluators would opine that respondent had been convicted of a sexually violent offense; respondent suffers from mental disorders and is substantially probable to reoffend; and, thus, based on the stipulation, the Court would find respondent to be sexually violent person. In presenting the stipulation, defense counsel indicated that he had reviewed each paragraph with respondent and answered any questions respondent had regarding the agreement. Before accepting the stipulation, the following colloquy occurred:

"THE COURT: *** Did you review this document with your lawyer?
[RESPONDENT]: Yes, I did.
THE COURT: Did you review each and every one of these 16 paragraphs with your lawyer regarding the stipulation that you're asking to enter at this time?
THE COURT: I'm showing you page three of the stipulation and agreement. Is that your signature on this stipulation?
[RESPONDENT]: Yes, it is.
THE COURT: And is it your intention at this time to waive or give up your right to a jury trial in this matter?
THE COURT: And proceed by way of stipulation where you're admitting that at this time you're currently a sexually violent person ...

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