Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

People v. Relerford

Supreme Court of Illinois

November 30, 2017

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Appellant,
v.
WALTER RELERFORD, Appellee.

          FREEMAN JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Karmeier and Justices Thomas, Kilbride, Garman, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          FREEMAN JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant, Walter Relerford, was convicted of stalking (720 ILCS 5/12-7.3(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2012)) and cyberstalking (720 ILCS 5/12-7.5(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2012)) and was sentenced to serve a prison term of six years. Defendant appealed. The appellate court declared that the provisions of the stalking and cyberstalking statutes under which defendant was convicted are facially unconstitutional as violative of substantive due process and vacated his convictions on that ground. 2016 IL App (1st) 132531. This court granted the State's petition for leave to appeal as a matter of right. Ill. S.Ct. R. 317 (eff. July 1, 2017). We now affirm the judgment of the appellate court, albeit on a different basis than that relied upon by the appellate court.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Defendant was charged in a four-count indictment with two counts of stalking (720 ILCS 5/12-7.3(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2012)) and two counts of cyberstalking (720 ILCS 5/12-7.5(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2012)). Count I charged defendant with stalking based on allegations that he (1) called Sonya Blakey, (2) sent her e-mails, (3) stood outside of her place of employment, and (4) entered her place of employment and that he knew or should have known that this course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress. Count II charged defendant with stalking based on the same conduct specified in count I but alleged that he knew or should have known that his conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for her safety. Count III charged defendant with cyberstalking based on allegations that he used electronic communication to make Facebook postings in which he expressed his desire to have sexual relations with Sonya Blakey and threatened her coworkers, workplace, and employer and that he knew or should have known that his conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for her safety. Count IV charged defendant with cyberstalking based on the same conduct specified in count III but alleged that he knew or should have known that his conduct would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.

         ¶ 4 At trial, the State presented evidence of the following relevant facts. Sonya Blakey was employed by Clear Channel Media and Entertainment (Clear Channel), where she managed and appeared on-air for a gospel radio station called Inspiration 1390. From May to August 2011, defendant worked as an intern for Inspiration 1390. In September or October 2011, he applied for a position as board operator at the station. Blakey and Derrick Brown, one of her coworkers, interviewed defendant for the position. After the interview, defendant sent Blakey a follow-up e-mail inquiring as to whether the position had been filled.

         ¶ 5 Defendant subsequently was informed that he was not being offered the position. In response, defendant called and e-mailed Blakey, as well as several of her colleagues, asking whether he could intern at the station again. Blakey testified that she received about five such e-mails from defendant. None of these e-mails contained any threatening language.

         ¶ 6 In January 2012, Blakey became aware that defendant was also contacting other Clear Channel employees. At around the same time, Blakey's manager told her to report any e-mails or telephone calls that she received from defendant to the human resources department. According to Blakey, sometime between January and March 2012, Clear Channel took the position that defendant was not welcome at the station and that Clear Channel employees were not to respond to his telephone calls and e-mails.

         ¶ 7 On one occasion in March 2012, Blakey saw defendant through a window as she was leaving work. Defendant and several companions were standing on the sidewalk outside of the office building in which Clear Channel is located. Defendant saw Blakey and waved at her, but Blakey did not wave back and just continued on her way. Although defendant did not follow her or verbally communicate with her, this encounter made Blakey feel "a little scared" and "a little nervous."

         ¶ 8 Sometime around late March or early April 2012, Jeffrey Garceau, an executive assistant to Clear Channel's president, directed defendant to stop contacting Clear Channel employees.

         ¶ 9 On April 4, 2012, Blakey was finishing her broadcast when defendant walked into the studio unannounced. Blakey switched her show to automated programming and asked defendant why he was there. Thereafter, Blakey and one of her colleagues escorted defendant from the building. Although defendant did not threaten her or put up a struggle while being escorted from the premises, the incident caused Blakey to feel "very nervous, very startled, shocked, " and "scared."

         ¶ 10 On April 9, 2012, Blakey received an e-mail from defendant apologizing for the studio visit. In the e-mail, defendant stated, "[m]y intentions were not to startle you or to catch you off guard." Blakey conceded that this e-mail did not contain any statements threatening her safety or the safety of anyone at Clear Channel.

         ¶ 11 Around the same time that defendant sent the apology e-mail, Blakey learned from a colleague who was a Facebook friend of defendant that he had made several postings on Facebook about her. Defendant did not send the Facebook posts directly to Blakey, and because she was not one of his Facebook friends, she could not view the posts through her own Facebook account. However, Blakey's colleague e-mailed the posts to her. The Facebook posts stated as follows:

"This is a motherfucking order: If my shit gets shut down by any and everyone who does, dies. You got till Friday at 5:00 p.m. to find some type of job for me with Clear Channel Chicago, maybe a board op or something. If you don't, Saturday is going to be the worst day of your life. That's a motherfucking order, bitch, ass, punk. Send it through 100 shundulah jobo ho 1 [sic]."
"The order: If Sonya's vagina is not in my mouth by next Friday, bury the entire Michigan State football team from 1993. That's the order. Send it through. One hundred."
"Just like the folks at Clear Channel think I want to come back to get close to Sonya, I mean, don't get me wrong, who wouldn't want to be close to her? She's wonderful and addictive to be around. The truth of the matter is, since I was 10, I've always wanted to work for WGCI, and that was before it was called Clear Channel. That was back in the 332 South Michigan Avenue days, suite 600. But now, since they are a. [sic]"
"How am I gay? I want to fuck Sonya. There's nothing gay about that."
"I still love you, Sonya. Who gives a shit about that other shit? I'm a man before anything. I'm not afraid of anyone. Life is bullshit anyway. I wonder what will happen when I'm dead and gone. I wonder will they just move on to the next person and treat them the same way they are treating me.
I know everything and I'm still not mad. I'm definitely worried about you, though; especially since these Chinese people talking about killing everyone on the 27th and 28th floor of Clear Channel. That's fucked up.
I'll ride for you, Sonya. But these Chinese people don't fuck around. I think I'm going to need to ask Randall for some army weapons to fuck with them. I got your back.
But if the shit gets rough, you better scratch, bite, kick or do something."

         ¶ 12 As a result of the Facebook posts, the management at Clear Channel advised Blakey to stay home from work until the police located defendant. Blakey took a couple of days off work because defendant's actions made her feel afraid for her own safety. Blakey returned to work after defendant was apprehended on April 12, 2012.

         ¶ 13 In defense, defendant acknowledged waving to Blakey through the window while he was standing on the sidewalk in March 2012, but he explained that he often patronized the businesses and restaurants on the ground floor of the building in which Clear Channel is located. He also admitted entering the studio on April 4 but stated that he did so only in an effort to inquire about working at Clear Channel. Defendant conceded that he was "maybe over persistent" in sending numerous e-mail inquiries about employment opportunities at Clear Channel, but he denied that he intended any harm in pursuing his long-held career goal of working there. Defendant denied making the Facebook posts and also denied ever being notified that he was not to e-mail, call, or visit employees of Clear Channel.

         ¶ 14 The trial court found defendant "guilty as charged" and subsequently sentenced him to serve a six-year term for the offense of stalking charged in count I (720 ILCS 5/12-7.3(a)(2) (West 2012)). The court did not impose sentences on the remaining counts, and the record does not reflect the reason for the trial court's failure to do so.

         ¶ 15 The appellate court vacated all of defendant's convictions based on its determination that the terms of subsection (a) of the stalking and cyberstalking statutes violate due process. 2016 IL App (1st) 132531, ¶¶ 27, 31-33. In the appellate court's view, the United States Supreme Court's decision in Elonis v. United States, 575 U.S.__, 135 S.Ct. 2001 (2015), compelled invalidation of both statutes on due process grounds because the relevant provisions lack a mental state requirement. 2016 IL App (1st) 132531, ¶¶ 21, 26-27, 31-33. In vacating defendant's unsentenced convictions on counts II, III, and IV, the appellate court concluded that it had jurisdiction to address the validity of those convictions under this court's decision in People v. Dixon, 91 Ill.2d 346 (1982). 2016 IL App (1st) 132531, ¶¶ 29-30.

         ¶ 16 The State appeals from the judgment of the appellate court as a matter of right. Defendant requests that the appellate court's judgment be affirmed, arguing that subsection (a) of each statute is facially unconstitutional because it is overbroad and violates the first amendment as well as violating substantive due process guarantees. We granted the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, the Cato Institute, and the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project leave to submit briefs as amici curiae in support of defendant. Ill. S.Ct. R. 345 (eff. Sept. 20, 2010).

         ¶ 17 II. ANALYSIS

         ¶ 18 A. Substantive Due Process Under Elonis

         ¶ 19 On appeal, the State challenges the appellate court's judgment that the stalking and cyberstalking statutes are unconstitutional because they violate substantive due process, which generally requires that criminal conduct be accompanied by a culpable mental state. See People v. Madrigal, 241 Ill.2d 463, 467 (2011). In particular, the State argues that the appellate court erred in holding that the United States Supreme Court's decision in Elonis, 575 U.S., 135 S.Ct. 2001, compelled invalidation of subsection (a) of the stalking and cyberstalking statutes on due process grounds because negligence cannot serve as the basis for criminal liability. We agree that the appellate court erred in vacating defendant's convictions based on Elonis.

         ¶ 20 In Elonis, the Supreme Court addressed the question of which mental state would be inferred to apply in a federal criminal statute that does not specify a mens rea requirement. Id. at__, 135 S.Ct. at 2008-09. The Court recognized that, because criminal offenses generally require proof of a "guilty mind, " courts typically interpret a criminal statute to require a criminal mens rea, even if the statute fails to include an applicable scienter requirement. Id. at__, 135 S.Ct. at 2009. The Supreme Court observed that, although the negligence standard is commonly applied in assessing civil tort liability, federal courts " 'have long been reluctant to infer that a negligence standard was intended in criminal statutes.' " (Emphasis added.). Id. at__, 135 S.Ct. at 2011 (quoting Rogers v. United States, 422 U.S. 35, 47 (1975) (Marshall J., concurring, joined by Douglas, J.) (citing Morissette v. United States, 342 U.S. 246 (1952))). Because the federal statute at issue in Elonis prohibited the transmission of threats in interstate commerce but did not specify a required mental state, the Court inferred that the government must prove the defendant either intended to issue threats or knew that his ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.