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People v. Johnson

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

October 19, 2017

MARCUS A. JOHNSON, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 14CF383 Honorable Heidi N. Ladd, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE HOLDER WHITE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Turner and Justice Harris concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 In May 2016, defendant, Marcus A. Johnson (born September 28, 1996), waived his right to juvenile court jurisdiction and entered into an open guilty plea to aggravated robbery. See 705 ILCS 405/5-130(b)(i) (West 2014); 720 ILCS 5/18-1(b)(1) (West 2014). In July 2014, the trial court sentenced defendant to a term of 24 years' imprisonment, followed by a two-year term of mandatory supervised release (MSR). In September 2014, the court denied defendant's motion to reconsider the sentence but, on its own motion, reconsidered that denial in October 2014. Accordingly, in October 2014, the court sentenced defendant to a term of 16 years' imprisonment followed by a two-year term of MSR.

         ¶ 2 Defendant appealed, and this court docketed the case as No. 4-14-0869 and entered an order summarily remanding for strict compliance with Illinois Supreme Court Rule 604(d) (eff. Mar. 8, 2016). Defendant thereafter filed a second motion to reconsider his sentence, which the trial court denied.

         ¶ 3 Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by considering, as an aggravating factor at sentencing, that defendant indicated he had a firearm, which was a factor inherent in the offense of aggravated robbery. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         ¶ 4 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 A. Guilty Plea

         ¶ 6 On May 16, 2014, defendant waived juvenile court jurisdiction and entered an open plea to a count of aggravated robbery. The factual basis showed the charge arose out of a March 2014 incident in which two teenaged males, later identified as defendant and his co-defendant (Erion Davis-Murdock), forced their way into Rebecca Runge's residence. Runge's daughter responded to a knock at the door, and one of the males pushed his way into the home and walked through the living room. The other male pushed Runge's daughter onto the couch, grabbed a cordless telephone from her, and pointed what she perceived to be a gun at her forehead.

         ¶ 7 Runge, aged 71, heard a loud noise and male voices, which drew her to the front room of the residence where she saw the two males yelling at her daughter. Runge's daughter grabbed a cordless telephone to call the police and one of the males, Davis-Murdock, took the phone from her. Runge then went into the bathroom to call the police on her red, flip-style cellular phone. One of the males, later identified as defendant, came into the bathroom, displayed what Runge perceived to be a small black gun, and took the cellular phone from her. Defendant was found two blocks away, hiding under a pickup truck where officers also found Runge's red, flip-style cellular phone. Officers never located guns, ammunition, or objects that appeared to be guns or ammunition.

         ¶ 8 The trial court found a factual basis and accepted defendant's guilty plea to one count of aggravated robbery. The court noted the charge was a Class 1 felony eligible for extended-term sentencing because the felony was committed against a person over the age of 60.

         ¶ 9 B. Sentencing Hearing

         ¶ 10 In July 2014, the trial court held a sentencing hearing. Prior to the hearing, defendant submitted additions to the presentence investigation report (PSI), which the court stated it considered in making its sentencing determination. Those documents disclosed that defendant was born with cocaine in his system and went to live with his adoptive mother at seven days old. In 2009, defendant's adoptive father and sister passed away. A 2011 psychiatric evaluation indicated past sexual abuse, but defendant declined to discuss the incident. Defendant was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but he did not take his medication regularly. Another 2011 mental-health assessment indicated defendant had ongoing mental-health issues and at times heard voices calling to him when he was angry. Defendant reported his involvement with a gang and struggled with choosing between gang influences and making good choices.

         ¶ 11 The PSI showed defendant was adjudicated in 2011 for possessing cannabis with the intent to sell on school grounds in Champaign County case No. 11-JD-37. Defendant was sent to the Department of Juvenile Justice on an interim commitment. That order was vacated in July 2011, and defendant was placed on probation. One month later, the State filed a petition to revoke defendant's probation. Defendant failed to appear at the hearing to revoke his probation, but he was eventually apprehended on a warrant. His probation was revoked and he was resentenced to the Department of Juvenile Justice. Defendant was also sentenced to the Department of Juvenile Justice for a 2012 burglary charge (Champaign County case No. 12-JD-17) and a 2013 criminal damage to property charge (Champaign County case No. 13-JD-60).

         ¶ 12 At the sentencing hearing, the State introduced into evidence three letters defendant wrote in April 2014 while a detainee of the juvenile detention center. The letters contained various references to defendant's gang, "Only the Dawgz." In one of the letters, defendant asked the intended recipient to pass along gang-related threats. The letters also contained references to the news coverage of defendant's case and comments about the crime. For example, in one letter, defendant wrote, "An[d] you know me an[d] my lil' brother made the news paper!!! Ask my mom[, ] it was saying how we put guns to the family head and shyt [sic] but stuff happens." Defendant also asked the intended recipients of the letters to post threats and messages of support on social media.

         ¶ 13 Officer Timothy Atteberry testified that he acted as the juvenile officer the night defendant was arrested and sat in while police interviewed defendant. Following the interviews, Atteberry transported defendant and Davis-Murdock to the juvenile detention center. The State played an audio and video recording of defendant and Davis-Murdock while Atteberry transported them. The recording, made a few hours after the offenses were committed, depicts defendant and Davis-Murdock laughing, joking, and making gang references.

         ¶ 14 The State argued that defendant had little rehabilitative potential, pointing to his prior offenses, continued criminality, and escalation of violence. The State emphasized the seriousness of the offense and the impact it had on Runge and her daughter. Based on the recording and defendant's intercepted letters after his arrest, the State argued he showed no remorse and intended to continue his gang affiliation and activity. Accordingly, the State asked for an extended-term sentence of 24 years' imprisonment.

         ¶ 15 Counsel for defendant emphasized the fact he was only 17 years old and argued that Davis-Murdock was the leader on the night they entered Runge's home. Counsel argued that the commission of the crime and the laughing and joking afterward was bravado and not who defendant truly was. Defendant had been in the detention center for three months and reports showed he was behaving himself. Counsel asserted defendant's life had been tumultuous, having been adopted at seven days old but maintaining contact with his biological parents. Counsel also noted the loss of defendant's adoptive father and sister in 2009. Defendant was not a member of a gang but had a close group of friends who decided to give their clique a name. Counsel asked for a minimal sentence.

         ¶ 16 The trial court stated, in part, it considered all relevant statutory factors, including (1) the nature and circumstances of the offense and (2) the evidence and applicable factors in aggravation and mitigation. The court engaged in a lengthy discussion regarding defendant's prior criminal history, his opportunities and upbringing, his attitude, and his gang membership. The court then turned to the nature and circumstances of the offense and noted ...

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