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
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
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
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
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