from the Circuit Court of Wayne County Nos. 15-CF-150,
15-CF-153, 15-CF-154 Honorable Michael J. Molt, Judge,
Attorney for Appellant Paige Clark Strawn, Law Office of
Paige Clark Strawn, P.C.
Attorneys for Appellee Hon. Kevin Kakac, State's
Attorney, Wayne County Courthouse, Fairfield, IL 62837;
Patrick Delfino, Director, Patrick D. Daly, Deputy Director,
Kelly M. Stacey, Staff Attorney, Office of the State's
Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor,
PRESIDING JUSTICE BARBERIS delivered the judgment of the
court, with opinion. Justices Cates and Moore concurred in
the judgment and opinion.
BARBERIS, PRESIDING JUSTICE
1 After a bench trial, the defendant, Thomas Belanger, was
declared a sexually dangerous person (SDP) under the Sexually
Dangerous Persons Act (Act) (725 ILCS 205/0.01
et seq. (West 2014)) and committed to the custody of
the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) for care and
treatment. On appeal, the defendant argues that the State
failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the he was an SDP.
2 I. Background
3 In August 2015, the defendant was charged with one count of
criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS 5/11-1.20(a)(1) (West
2014)), one count of aggravated assault (720 ILCS
5/12-2(c)(1) (West 2014)), two counts of unlawful restraint
(720 ILCS 5/10-3(a) (West 2014)), and three counts of
aggravated domestic battery (720 ILCS 5/12-3.3(a-5) (West
2014)). The criminal sexual assault charge alleged that the
defendant committed an act of sexual penetration by the use
of force against his fifth wife, D.B. The defendant later
entered not guilty pleas to all charges.
4 While charges were pending, the State filed a petition to
proceed and for evaluations in lieu of criminal prosecution
under the Act. The State alleged that the defendant had an
extensive criminal history that included the following:
aggravated battery and sexual assault in 1989 of S.E., a
14-month-old family member, where the defendant stomped on
her pubic area and anally raped her; escape and theft of a
motor vehicle in 1990; aggravated battery and sexual assault
in 2002, where the defendant tied up a man and anally
penetrated him with a broomstick; and multiple acts of sexual
violence against D.B., including one incident where he gagged
her with a bandana, bound her hands, forced her to kneel
while he beat her with a belt, and then raped her.
5 The Wayne County circuit court appointed Dr. Daniel Cuneo,
a licensed clinical psychologist, and Dr. Angeline
Stanislaus, a forensic psychiatrist, to conduct independent
examinations of the defendant and render separate opinions on
whether the defendant qualified as an SDP, as defined by the
Act. Following the evaluations, the State filed a petition to
declare the defendant an SDP, pursuant to the Act. The
petition alleged that both Drs. Cuneo and Stanislaus had
concluded within a reasonable degree of medical and
psychiatric certainty that the defendant met the criteria as
an SDP. The petition also alleged that the defendant suffered
from a qualifying mental disorder for at least one year prior
to the filing of the petition, that he had criminal
propensities to commit sex offenses and acts of sexual
molestation of children, that he had demonstrated criminal
propensity by his past actions, and that he was substantially
likely to engage in future acts of sexual violence if not
confined. Prior to trial on the State's petition, the
defendant waived his right to a jury trial.
6 A. Dr. Cuneo
7 In April 2016, the defendant's bench trial was held.
Dr. Cuneo, the State's first expert witness, testified to
the following. Dr. Cuneo was a licensed clinical psychologist
primarily employed by the court systems in multiple counties
throughout southern Illinois. Dr. Cuneo had conducted
numerous sex offender risk assessments and sexually violent
person evaluations but acknowledged that the defendant's
case was his first SDP evaluation. In preparing the
defendant's evaluation, Dr. Cuneo had referenced the
defendant's clinical and mental health records, criminal
history, social history, and prior fitness evaluations.
8 Dr. Cuneo first conducted a mental status examination of
the defendant to determine whether the defendant suffered
from the requisite mental disorder. In doing so, he initially
determined whether the defendant was feigning symptoms or
responding truthfully to his inquiries by primarily relying
on the defendant's documented mental health history. Dr.
Cuneo testified that the defendant had "admitted every
psychiatric symptom posed to him" and claimed to have
suffered from hallucinations since childhood, which Dr. Cuneo
noted was inconsistent with the defendant's mental health
records. According to Dr. Cuneo, the defendant's mental
health records, dating back to 1975, revealed that the
defendant had always denied experiencing hallucinations. Dr.
Cuneo concluded that the defendant's thinking was
"somewhat paranoid in nature" but not delusional.
Moreover, Dr. Cuneo noted that the defendant's past
mental health treatments had been intertwined with the
defendant's criminal activities, which Dr. Cuneo
explained was particularly important because the defendant
never voluntarily sought treatment unless legally required.
9 Dr. Cuneo also addressed the defendant's mood
disorders. Often, the defendant would turn his "anger
inward" and then become depressed and suicidal. In fact,
the defendant told Dr. Cuneo that he had attempted suicide
over 100 times, which was consistent with his previous
hospitalization records. Additionally, the defendant's
clinical records showed numerous examples where he turned his
anger outward and lashed out toward others with rage. In
particular, the defendant admitted that he had attempted to
kill the boyfriend of his ex-wife, A.B., with a baseball bat,
broken A.B.'s jaw, and sexually abused her for several
hours. The defendant ...