from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Tazewell
County, Illinois, Circuit No. 12-JA-73 Honorable Kirk D.
Schoenbein, Judge, Presiding.
JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices McDade and Schmidt concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 The trial court entered orders finding respondent, Gabriel
F. (father), to be an unfit parent and terminating
father's parental rights concerning the minor, A.F. On
appeal, father argues that the trial court's fitness
determination was erroneous. We affirm.
3 On October 19, 2012, the State filed a neglect petition
alleging that father neglected A.F., born July 9, 2012, by
subjecting the minor to an environment injurious to her
welfare pursuant to section 2-3(1)(b) of the Juvenile Court
Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/2-3(1)(b) (West 2012)).
Specifically, the neglect petition alleged that on or about
September 9, 2012,  A.F. suffered a fracture to her right
femur and a fracture to her left tibia by means other than
accidental while in the care of father. On December 6, 2012,
the State filed a supplemental petition adding the allegation
that, "During the time that the minor was hospitalized
in August of 2012, multiple problems with the father were
noted by hospital staff which included but were not limited
to the father having disregard for the minor's pain or
risks of moving the minor's fractured limb."
4 On February 28, 2013, father stipulated that the
allegations of the original petition could be proven by a
preponderance of the State's evidence. On that same date,
the trial court entered an adjudicatory order finding A.F.
neglected. On April 19, 2013, the trial court entered a
dispositional order finding father unfit based on the
physical abuse of A.F.
5 The injuries A.F. suffered in 2012 gave rise to criminal
proceedings in Tazewell County case No. 13-CF-36 against
father. The State initially charged father with the Class X
felony of aggravated battery to a child. 720 ILCS
5/12-3.05(b)(1) (West 2012). However, pursuant to a plea
agreement, father plead guilty to the Class 2 felony of
aggravated domestic battery pursuant to section 12-3.3(a) of
the Criminal Code of 2012 in that he "knowingly caused
great bodily harm to A.F. (F/W DOB 7/9/12), a family member,
in that he performed the acts which resulted in fractures to
A.F.'s left tibia and right femur." See id.
§ 12-3.3(a). In exchange for father's guilty plea to
aggravated domestic battery, the State dismissed the Class X
felony of aggravated battery to a child. The trial court
sentenced father to a term of seven years in the Illinois
Department of Corrections. Father remained incarcerated when
this appeal was filed.
6 The juvenile case proceeded over the next three years and
the trial court conducted several permanency review hearings.
On December 30, 2016, the State filed a petition to terminate
father's parental rights. The termination petition
alleged that father was depraved, pursuant to section 1(I) of
the Adoption Act (750 ILCS 50/1(I) (West 2016)), because
father had been "convicted of Aggravated Domestic
Battery to a Minor,  in Tazewell County case No.
13-CF-36." On January 26, 2017, father filed an answer
to the State's termination petition, which admitted to
his prior conviction of aggravated domestic battery but
claimed he was rehabilitated and denied that it was in
A.F.'s best interests to terminate his parental rights.
7 On June 9, 2017, the trial court began a hearing on the
State's termination petition. The parties agreed that the
statutory provision under which the termination petition was
brought should be amended to correct a scrivener's error
and amend the statutory basis for the petition to section
1(D)(i) of the Adoption Act (id. § 1(D)(i))
instead of section 1(I). The trial court continued the
hearing to August 24, 2017. On that date, the State admitted
State's exhibit No. 1, a certified copy of father's
conviction for aggravated domestic battery in Tazewell County
case No. 13-CF-36, over father's objection, as evidence
of father's depravity. Additionally, the court took
judicial notice of the entire court file in Tazewell County
case No. 13-CF-36 without objection from father.
8 After the State's evidence, father testified before the
court and explained that he was 19 years of age at the time
of his arrest in Tazewell County case No. 13-CF-36. In August
2012, around the time of the incident in this case, father
lived with his infant child, A.F., and A.F.'s biological
9 Father testified that he grew up with two brothers and an
adopted sister, had a good relationship with his parents, had
a good upbringing, was never abused, and graduated from high
school in 2011. Father advised the court that, prior to his
arrest in Tazewell County case No. 13-CF-36, he had been
employed and his prior record included convictions of
misdemeanor possession of cannabis, failure to signal, and a
prior adjudication for retail theft when he was a minor.
Father reported that he had previously used marijuana,
mushrooms, and MDMA but stopped using drugs when his
girlfriend became pregnant with A.F. Father was engaged in
some DCFS services prior to his arrest in January 2013 but
did not complete services, such as a drug-alcohol assessment,
a psychological evaluation, or a parenting class. Father
completed no additional services in prison because he was on
the back of the waitlists. Father enjoys fishing, building
things, playing guitar, and aquariums.
10 Father provided an explanation to the court concerning the
2012 injuries to A.F. that resulted in criminal charges
against father. According to father's testimony, he
accidentally fell on A.F. and broke her leg while changing
her diaper in August 2012. Father admitted that his testimony
was inconsistent with the agreed factual basis presented to
the court as part of father's guilty plea in Tazewell
County case No. 13-CF-36. Father conceded that the agreed
factual basis for his guilty plea in Tazewell County case No.
13-CF-36, as recited to the trial court, established
A.F.'s injuries occurred when father burped A.F. In
addition, father admitted that he had given law enforcement
different versions of how A.F.'s injury had occurred on
prior occasions but had to tell the truth now because he did
not "feel comfortable sticking to a lie." Father
expected to be released from prison in January 2018, due to
good behavior, with his mandatory sentence actually running
to January 2021.
11 The court found father's version of events incredible
and found father unfit on depravity grounds by clear and
convincing evidence. The matter proceeded to a best interest
hearing, and the court entered a dispositional order
terminating father's parental ...