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People v. Riggs

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

June 19, 2019

JEREMIAH RIGGS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of De Kalb County. No. 13-CF-928 Honorable Robbin J. Stuckert, Judge, Presiding.

          BURKE, JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Jorgensen and Spence concurred in the judgment and opinion.


          BURKE, JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Following a jury trial, defendant, Jeremiah Riggs, was convicted of nine counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child (720 ILCS 5/11-1.40(a)(1) (West 2012)). He appeals, contending that he was deprived of his constitutional right to confront witnesses when, although the court admitted the victim's out-of-court statements describing all of the conduct with which defendant was charged, she testified at trial about only three incidents. Defendant contends that he was thus unable to effectively cross-examine her about the remaining incidents. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 Defendant was charged with 15 counts of predatory criminal sexual assault involving I.H. The State moved to introduce I.H.'s hearsay statements pursuant to section 115-10 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/115-10 (West 2012)). At a hearing, Tracy Paszotta testified that she was I.H.'s kindergarten teacher in 2013. One day, a parent called Paszotta and said that I.H. had told the caller's daughter that I.H.'s father had inappropriately touched her. Paszotta took I.H. out of her music class and asked if anything was bothering her. After some prompting, I.H. said that her father, whom she called "Uncle Miah," had taken her and another child into the bathroom, where he made I.H. watch a pornographic movie on his phone. He then pulled down her pants and touched her. Paszotta did not ask any further questions. She returned I.H. to class and called the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) hotline.

         ¶ 3 While Paszotta waited for DCFS to call her back, the school psychologist said that I.H. had more to tell her. I.H. then said that" 'he put his finger inside [her].'" Paszotta called DCFS again and said that she needed to speak to someone right away because the students were about to be released from school. She was then connected with someone who took the report.

         ¶ 4 Monique Heilmeister testified that she interviewed I.H. at the Children's Advocacy Center. During the interview, I.H. said that she was lying on Aunt Angie's bed when defendant took her into the bathroom, pulled down his pants, locked the door, and "stuck his thing in [her] private part."

         ¶ 5 I.H. was initially unsure how old she was when this occurred but later said that it happened after her sixth birthday party in May. Defendant put his finger under her underwear, removed her clothes, and made her lie on the bed. He put his finger inside her and got on top of her and was "humping" her with his clothes off. I.H. said that when she fell asleep defendant hit and choked her. He made her suck his "private part." I.H. used a Coke bottle to show what he did. She said that this happened more than once that day. It happened only at Aunt Angie's house. When asked what defendant did to her "pee pee," she made a humping motion. When asked if anything went inside her "pee pee," she replied a finger. When asked if anything touched the skin around her "pee pee," she shook her head no. Defendant humped her neck and her back. When asked what part of her body defendant's penis touched, she pointed to the back of her neck. She also said that his penis touched her mouth and that he made her suck it. She did not remember what his penis looked like and did not see anything come out of it. However, she later said that his penis was big and long.

         ¶ 6 I.H. said that defendant put his penis inside her "butt" and inside her "pee pee" more than once. He made her suck his penis more than once. She thought that he said he would kill her if she told anyone what happened. He put makeup on her and almost stabbed her. Defendant had shown her sex videos before. He also made her suck his penis in the bathroom at her house in De Kalb more than 10 times on the same day. This last happened at the De Kalb house "a long time ago." Defendant last made her suck his penis more than two months earlier.

         ¶ 7 The court found that the time, content, and circumstances of the statements provided sufficient safeguards of reliability. See id. § 115-10(b)(1). The court thus ruled them admissible, provided that I.H. testified at trial.

         ¶ 8 At trial, I.H. testified that she lived with her mother and defendant. Defendant touched her with his penis where she went to the bathroom. She called this body part her "pee pee." Defendant's penis also touched her butt and her mouth.

         ¶ 9 On cross-examination, I.H. testified that she had met several times with various people in preparation for her testimony. She had been brought into the courtroom with no one else present and told what to expect during the trial. She did not recall her kindergarten teacher asking her if anything bad was happening to her. She did not remember seeing a doctor. She did remember telling her teacher that something bad had happened to her. Paszotta and Heilmeister testified as they had at the section 115-10 hearing.

         ¶ 10 Detective Mark Nachman testified that defendant voluntarily went to the De Kalb police station, where Nachman interviewed him. The pair took the elevator to an interview room on the second floor. Defendant was able to walk without assistance and had no apparent difficulty with his balance.

         ¶ 11 Defendant was agitated at first, claiming that everyone knew what was going on but him. Nachman said that he believed that inappropriate things had happened between defendant and I.H. Defendant angrily denied the allegations, calling them "disgusting" and "gross." Nachman said that it was possible that ...

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