from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 12-CF-2510
Honorable Liam C. Brennan, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE BIRKETT delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Hutchinson and Jorgensen concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Defendant, Adam D. Belmont, appeals his sentence of 12
years' incarceration for aggravated criminal sexual
assault with a dangerous weapon (720 ILCS 5/11-1.30(a)(1)
(West 2012)). He contends that the sentence was plain error
when the trial court was not informed of, and thus did not
apply, a sentencing enhancement that required the court to
add 10 years to the sentence, making the lowest legal
sentence 16 years. The State contends that the matter is not
plain error or that defendant is estopped from challenging
the sentence when he benefited from the error. We determine
that plain error does not apply, because defendant was not
prejudiced or deprived of a fair sentencing hearing.
Accordingly, we affirm.
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 Defendant was initially charged in January 2013 with 22
counts of various crimes in connection with the sexual
assault and murder of his former girlfriend. In May 2015,
defendant entered a blind guilty plea to one count of
aggravated criminal sexual assault with a dangerous weapon
and one count of first-degree murder (id. §
9-1(a)(1)). In exchange, the State dismissed the remaining
4 At the plea hearing, the trial court clarified with the
State that the sentencing ranges were 20 to 60 years for
murder and 6 to 30 years for aggravated criminal sexual
assault, with the sentences to run consecutively. The court
also asked: "[B]ased upon the defendant's criminal
history, there are no issues of extended term eligibility;
correct?" The State replied that defendant had no
criminal history. There was no discussion of a mandatory
enhancement of 10 years because the crime was committed with
a dangerous weapon (id. § 11-1.30(d)(1)). The
factual basis for the plea showed that defendant sexually
assaulted and murdered the victim using a knife.
5 At sentencing, the State sought sentences of at least 50
years for murder and 15 years for aggravated criminal sexual
assault. The defense asked for sentences closer to the
minimum. A lengthy and thorough sentencing hearing was held,
with both the parties and the court assuming that no
sentencing enhancements applied. Without discussion of the
minimum and maximum sentences, the court sentenced defendant
to consecutive terms of 35 years for murder and 12 years for
aggravated criminal sexual assault. Defendant moved to
reconsider the sentences, arguing that they were excessive.
The motion was denied, and he appeals.
6 II. ANALYSIS
7 Defendant contends that the court plainly erred when it
sentenced him, because it failed to apply a mandatory 10-year
enhancement to his sentence for aggravated criminal sexual
assault. The State contends that there was no plain error or,
alternatively, that defendant is estopped from raising the
matter when he helped create the error to his benefit.
8 Defendant was convicted under section 11-1.30(a)(1) of the
Criminal Code of 2012, which defines aggravated criminal
sexual assault in instances where the defendant displays,
threatens to use, or uses a dangerous weapon other than a
firearm. Id. § 11-1.30(a)(1). The crime is a
Class X felony, which generally carries with a minimum
sentence of six years' incarceration. Id. §
11-1.30(a)(1), (d)(1); 730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-25(a) (West 2012).
However, when a defendant is convicted under section
11-1.30(a)(1), section 11-1.30(d)(1) provides that "10
years shall be added to the term of imprisonment imposed by
the court." 720 ILCS 5/11-1.30(d)(1) (West 2012).
Accordingly, with the enhancement, defendant's total
sentence for aggravated criminal sexual assault should have
been at least 16 years.
9 Defendant concedes that he forfeited the issue by failing
to raise the matter in the trial court. See People v.
Price, 2016 IL 118613, ¶ 27 (a defendant may no
longer argue that a statutorily unauthorized sentence is
void). However, under the plain-error rule, reviewing courts
may address a forfeited issue when (1) the evidence is
closely balanced or (2) an error is so serious that the
defendant was denied a fair sentencing hearing. People v.
Wilkins, 343 Ill.App.3d 147, 149 (2003). "The right
to be lawfully sentenced is a substantial right."
People v. Whitney, 297 Ill.App.3d 965, 967 (1998).
Thus, generally, "impermissible or illegal sentences may
be attacked on appeal as plainly erroneous."
Id. For example, "reviewing courts regularly
have applied the plain error rule to address claims that an
extended-term sentence was not authorized by law."
Wilkins, 343 Ill.App.3d at 149.
10 Here, however, defendant claims that an enhanced sentence
was required by law. "The plain-error rule is
not a general saving clause for all trial errors."
People v. Scott, 2015 IL App (4th) 130222, ¶
41. "Rather, it is a limited and narrow exception
'designed to redress serious injustices.' "
Id. (quoting People v. Baker, 341
Ill.App.3d 1083, 1090 (2003)). We see no such injustice here.
11 First, defendant was not prejudiced by the error. Instead
he benefited from it, with an unlawfully lenient sentencing
range. In the absence of prejudice, defendant cannot show
plain error under the first prong of the plain-error rule.
See People v. Johnson, 2017 IL App (2d) 141241,
¶ 50. Second, and similarly, we fail to see how the
application of an unlawfully lenient sentencing range
deprived defendant of a fair sentencing hearing. To whatever
extent that the outcome of the hearing was unfair, it was
unfair only to the ...