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People v. Wood

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

November 20, 2017

ALEXANDER WOOD, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 13 CR 7597 Honorable Maura Slattery Boyle Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE SIMON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Harris and Mikva concurred in the judgment and opinion.


          SIMON, JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 In a fit of exasperation with his legal and financial troubles, defendant Alexander Wood called the public defender's office and left a crude and offensive rant about how much he hated everyone involved in his legal case. He stated that he dreamed every day about revenge, and he singled out the judge presiding over his case, stating that he hoped for the judge's death and destruction. Defendant was charged and convicted of threatening a public official. We hold that defendant did not make a true threat as a matter of law and that the State failed to prove defendant knowingly transmitted any communication to the judge.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 In 2012, defendant was on probation, and the judge presiding over his case was Judge Anthony Calabrese. Defendant was represented by a public defender for at least one court appearance while on probation, but he had a private attorney for other appearances. At a court appearance in October 2012, defendant moved the court to terminate his probation or alternatively to transfer his probation to Virginia. Defendant informed the court that he wanted to marry a woman who was in the Navy and was stationed there. Following a hearing, Judge Calabrese denied the motion.

         ¶ 4 Defendant was fired from multiple jobs and had difficulty meeting his probationary financial requirements, and he blamed the terms of his probation for his hardship. Even though his probation was set to be terminated in April 2013, defendant figured he would not be released from his probation because he could not afford the fees. Frustrated one night in March 2013, defendant looked up the public defender's phone number and left a voicemail.

"There is not a day that goes by since I was sentenced at that courthouse that I have not dreamed about revenge and the utter hate I feel for the judge, and the utter hate I feel for the prosecuting attorney, and the utter hate I feel for the corporation that bound me in chains. There's not a day that goes by that I don't pray for the death and destruction upon the judge and upon every single person who sentenced me, and in front of witnesses, in front of everyone, and my utter hatred of you and of every other attorney there. You make me sick to my motherfucking stomach. And I hate you. And I hate the prosecuting attorney. And I hate Judge Calabrese. And I hate you all so very, very much. For the evil you did is un-freaking speakable and the lack of remorse I feel is because of the injustice done to me. You all can suck it because I hate you all with the bottomless, deepest hate of my heart."

         ¶ 5 Five days later, Assistant Public Defender Barry Horewitch went to Judge Calabrese's courtroom, and while the judge was on the bench, told the judge that he needed to speak to him about something important. Horewitch told Judge Calabrese about the voicemail and then played the voicemail for the judge in the presence of an assistant State's Attorney. At that time, no one knew the identity of the person that left the voicemail.

         ¶ 6 The judge alerted the sheriff in charge of security and his supervising judge. A police officer was assigned to investigate. Judge Calabrese testified at trial that he took the voicemail as a threat. He changed his routine, would not stay at the courthouse after hours, and was otherwise vigilant. He was scared for his own safety and that of his family. About three weeks after the call was made and two weeks after the judge heard the message, defendant was identified as the caller.

         ¶ 7 Defendant was arrested and charged with threatening a public official. He admitted making the call, but claimed it was not a threat. He claimed he was overwhelmed by his legal troubles and wanted to tell the public defender exactly how he felt. He claimed that he never intended the message for the judge nor did he think the judge would ever hear it.

         ¶ 8 Prior to this incident, in September 2011, defendant was fired from his position at a marketing agency on the recommendation of one of his coworkers. That coworker testified in this case that after defendant was fired, defendant called him on the phone and threatened to kill him and his family. Defendant pled guilty to telephone harassment in that case and was sentenced to two years probation. That term of probation is the one that was ongoing when defendant made the call to the public defender's office that is the subject of this case.

         ¶ 9 Following a jury trial, the jury found defendant guilty of threatening a public official. The trial judge sentenced ...

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