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In re B.C.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

February 21, 2018

In re B.C., a Minor
v.
B.C., Respondent-Appellant. The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 21st Judicial Circuit, Kankakee County, Illinois, Circuit No. 00-JD-80, Honorable Adrienne W. Albrecht, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Carter and Justice Schmidt concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          WRIGHT JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Respondent, B.C., appeals from the circuit court's denial of his petition to terminate registration as a sex offender. B.C. argues that (1) the circuit court improperly interpreted the applicable statute and (2) the court's decision was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. We reverse and remand with directions for the court to grant B.C.'s petition to terminate sex offender registration.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 On May 3, 2000, the State filed a juvenile delinquency petition that alleged B.C. was delinquent in that he had committed four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse (720 ILCS 5/12-16(c)(2)(i) (West 2000)). Counts I and III alleged that B.C., who was under 17 years of age at the time of the offenses, had placed his penis in the mouths of victims T.C. and J.M., who were under 9 years of age, for the purpose of sexual gratification. Counts II and IV alleged that B.C., who was under 17 years of age at the time of the offenses, had placed his penis in the anuses of victims T.C. and J.M, who were under 9 years of age, for the purpose of sexual gratification.

         ¶ 4 In May 2000, Dr. Mary Belford evaluated B.C. In her report, Belford said B.C. had no history of abuse and no evidence of depression, psychosis, or any preexisting psychiatric issues. Belford said B.C.'s psychological testing was "basically normal except for moderately low functioning (age-equivalent of ten years old) in communication domains and socialization."

         ¶ 5 In July 2000, therapist Judith McCormick prepared a second evaluation. In her report, McCormick said B.C. had a low to moderate risk for sexual reoffense. McCormick based her low risk opinion on the following factors: (1) B.C. was willing to explore his offenses in a nondefensive manner, (2) B.C. acknowledged and understood the negative impact of the offenses on the victims, (3) B.C. was willing to accept responsibility for committing the offenses, (4) B.C. felt guilty and remorseful because of the negative impact on the victims, (5) B.C.'s parents acknowledged and understood the negative impact of the offenses on the victims, (6) B.C.'s parents held B.C. responsible for the offense without externalizing the blame, (7) B.C. had no history of behavior disorder involving physical aggression, (8) B.C. had a functional family unit, (9) B.C.'s family was supportive of treatment and willing to be involved in therapy, and (10) B.C. had no history of behavior or academic problems at school. McCormick cited the following factors in support of her moderate risk opinion: (1) B.C. had two or more documented offenses, (2) B.C. did not understand the exploitive nature of the offenses, (3) B.C. had negative self-esteem, and (4) B.C.'s family was unable to identify problems within the family unit other than B.C.'s deviant sexual behavior.

         ¶ 6 On August 17, 2000, B.C. admitted to counts I and III of the State's petition. The court adjudicated B.C. delinquent and granted the State's motion to dismiss counts II and IV. The court placed B.C. on reporting probation until August 17, 2005.

         ¶ 7 In October 2001, Dr. Antoinette Kavanaugh evaluated B.C. In her report, Kavanaugh said B.C. appeared to be making positive strides in therapy, and he had improved his social skills. Kavanaugh noted that assessing B.C.'s risk of reoffense was "not an easy task" because recidivism rates for adolescent sex offenders were low compared to adult sex offenders and a 100% accurate empirical risk assessment did not exist. Nevertheless, Kavanaugh cited the following factors that may reduce B.C.'s likelihood of reoffense: (1) B.C. had no history of juvenile delinquency before the adjudicated offense, (2) since B.C.'s adjudication, he has not had any new involvement with the justice system, (3) B.C. consistently engaged in and demonstrated progress in treatment, (4) B.C. admitted that he committed the offenses, (5) B.C.'s level of denial had decreased, (6) B.C.'s exposure to sexually explicit material had decreased, (7) B.C. did not have a history of being victimized, (8) B.C. did not have a deviant sexual arousal pattern, (9) B.C.'s family was willing to engage in treatment, (10) B.C. was involved in a functional family system, (11) B.C. did not have a history of academic or behavioral problems, (12) B.C. had increased his involvement with peers his age and decreased his involvement with younger peers, (13) B.C. had increased parental and adult supervision, (14) B.C.'s empathy for the victims had increased but was still incomplete, (15) B.C. did not have a history of drug or alcohol use, (16) B.C.'s social skills were increasing, and (17) B.C. was not suffering from a significant emotional or psychological problem. Kavanaugh also cited four factors that may increase B.C.'s likelihood of reoffense: (1) B.C. and his parents continued to display cognitive distortions related to the offense; (2) B.C. and his family did not have sufficient knowledge of the environmental, interpersonal, and family factors that may have contributed to the abuse; (3) B.C. and his family have yet to develop an appropriate level of victim empathy; and (4) B.C. and his family failed to completely understand the exploitative nature of the offenses.

         ¶ 8 On August 25, 2005, B.C. was discharged from probation. The discharge order noted that B.C. had successfully completed his term of probation.

         ¶ 9 On April 1, 2016, B.C. filed a petition for termination of sex offender registration. 730 ILCS 150/3-5(c) (West 2016). The petition alleged that (1) B.C. became statutorily eligible to petition for termination on September 1, 2005, (2) B.C. had successfully completed a sex offender treatment program, and (3) according to licensed professional evaluator Pamela Munson, B.C. was a "low risk to re-offend, " had a plan for accountability, and was aware of his triggers.

         ¶ 10 At the hearing on the petition, B.C. testified that he committed the charged offenses when he was 14 years old. Since his convictions, B.C. had graduated from high school and attended 1½ years of community college. After high school, B.C. worked full time at several Taco Bell locations. B.C. had also worked as a manager at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant and was then the general manager of the Taco Bell in Crest Hill.

         ¶ 11 When B.C. pled guilty, he was subject to a 10-year term of sex offender registration. After his plea, the legislature changed the applicable registration term to natural life. B.C. Had registered as required since the date of his conviction. B.C. had not been arrested or convicted of any other crimes, and he had not violated his probation. B.C. had also voluntarily completed a sex offender treatment program through the office of Dr. James Simone and Associates. At the conclusion of the program, Munson prepared a risk assessment.

         ¶ 12 The State called Tammy M., the mother of J.M., to read a victim impact statement. In her statement, Tammy detailed J.M.'s continuing anxiety and emotional distress caused by B.C.'s actions. Tammy acknowledged that people can change, but advocated that B.C. remain on the sex offender registry for as long as possible because of the harm B.C. had caused to J.M.

         ¶ 13 At the conclusion of Tammy's testimony, counsel for B.C. proffered that, if called to testify, Munson would state B.C. is the "lowest possible risk they would ever say is low which is being-they will never say no risk in an evaluation." The State objected to the proffered testimony, and the court continued the case to allow B.C. to subpoena Munson.

         ¶ 14 When the hearing resumed, Munson testified that she had notified B.C. via letter that he had successfully completed the sex offender treatment program and had a low risk to reoffend. Munson explained that the sex offender treatment program consisted of three phases: (1) offender check-ins and learning accountability for the deviant behavior; (2) accountability, understanding the cognitive errors that led to the offender's poor choices, and developing empathy and understanding the impact of the offender's actions on the victim and society; and (3) managing and understanding the offender's triggers and high risk areas. These three phases included 18 assignments and took four years to complete. At the end of the program, the evaluators determined whether the offender had changed his erroneous thinking or had merely moved through the steps.

         ¶ 15 Munson said B.C. enrolled in the program in 2011 and successfully completed it in 2015. At that time, Munson prepared a risk assessment. Munson explained the biggest factor in preparing the assessment was determining whether B.C. understood his actions were wrong and how to prevent the behavior in the future. Munson said the following factors reflected favorably on B.C.'s risk assessment: (1) B.C. had voluntarily undertaken the sex offender treatment program, (2) B.C. had a history of continuous employment, (3) B.C. had a positive family support network, and (4) B.C.'s family understood the program was not about "curing" B.C., but educating and training B.C. to understand the thinking errors that led to the offenses. Munson ultimately determined that B.C. had a "low risk to re-offend." Munson said that neither she nor any of the other evaluators at Dr. James Simone and Associates had ever issued a "no risk to offend" opinion. The only options were "low risk, medium risk, or high risk."

          ¶ 16 On cross-examination, Munson explained that the sex offender treatment program teaches offenders

"to accept that there is always a possibility of re-offense. That's a part of why we build and instill in them an understanding of what their triggers are and ways of making sure that they don't get themselves in situations.
Many of our assignments are based on looking at their cycle of behavior and then planning for exits of how to ...

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