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People v. Crawford

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

July 25, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BRIAN CRAWFORD, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 15 CR 6760 Honorable Frank Zelezinski, Judge, presiding.

          James E. Chadd, State Appellate Defender, of Chicago (Patricia Mysza, Deputy Defender, and Michael Gomez, Assistant Appellate Defender, of counsel), for defendant-appellant.

          Kimberly M. Foxx, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Annette Collins, Veronica Calderon Malavia, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

          PUCINSKI JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hyman and Mason concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          PUCINSKI JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Following a bench trial, defendant Brian Crawford was found guilty of stalking (720 ILCS 5/12-7.3(a)(1) (West 2014)) and cyberstalking (id. § 12-7.5(a)(2)). The trial court merged the counts and sentenced defendant on the cyberstalking count to two years in prison. On appeal, defendant contends we should vacate his conviction because the cyberstalking statute under which he was convicted is facially unconstitutional. He argues that subsection (a) of the statute (1) violates due process because it allows a felony conviction for the mere negligent infliction of emotional distress and (2) violates the first amendment because it is an overbroad prohibition on speech. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Defendant was initially charged with one count of attempted first degree murder, two counts of stalking, and four counts of cyberstalking. The State proceeded at trial on single counts of attempted first degree murder, stalking, and cyberstalking.

         ¶ 4 The State charged defendant with stalking based on the allegation that he made several phone calls and text messages threatening to kill the victim and that he knew or should have known that his course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for his or her safety. It charged defendant with cyberstalking based on the allegation that he sent the victim several threatening text messages saying he was going to kill her and that he knew or should have known that this course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.

         ¶ 5 At trial, Iceiss Sieler testified that, on March 25, 2015, she had an "off and on" relationship with defendant for over 18 years and had two children with him. Defendant stayed at her apartment in Matteson, Illinois, about five to six times per week. She was not in a long-term relationship with him because she was pursuing a relationship with her boyfriend, Jonathan.[1]Sieler did not ask defendant to leave her home because he did not have anywhere else to go and he was helping support their children.

         ¶ 6 On March 25, 2015, Sieler first saw defendant at his hotel room, where they had a sexual relationship and he gave her rent money. They left the hotel to attend a parent-teacher conference at their son's school, after which Sieler dropped defendant off at his mother's house in Chicago. Sieler told defendant she would pick him up that evening. Sieler returned to her house, and at around 8:30 p.m., she left to meet Jonathan in Chicago. When Sieler was with Jonathan, defendant called her, but she did not answer because she was having a good time and did not want to be bothered.

         ¶ 7 Defendant sent Sieler several text messages that night, and she read them in court. At 2:36 a.m., defendant's text messages stated: "U GONE DIE," "I WILL F*** MURDER U" and "Dont give a f*** who u tell." At 2:46 a.m., defendant's text message stated: "GET READY TO MEET YOUR MAKER. . . I know how much u love that song (take me to the king) lets make it a reality" and, at 2:47 a.m., he stated, "Join YO MFN MOMMA N YO COUSIN B***." At 2:54 a.m., defendant's text messages stated: "Its not a matter of 'if i catch u but 'when' and when i do, uts gone be ugly and im already prepared to go *** jail for doing it."

         ¶ 8 Sieler testified that defendant's text messages did "[n]ot really" upset her and she was not scared. When Sieler was driving home to Matteson that night, she stopped a police officer and asked him to escort her home because she thought defendant was at her home and she did not "feel like being bothered" with him. She testified she was "highly intoxicated" and wanted defendant out of her house so Jonathan could come over. When Sieler was talking to the officer, defendant called her, and she put the call on speakerphone. The officer followed Sieler home. When Sieler arrived home, she asked her son, who was lying on the couch, if he was okay and told the officer that defendant's jacket was there. Defendant walked out of the kitchen, which was about 20 feet away, with a knife in his hands and stood there. Sieler testified that she physically fought with defendant "pretty often" and defendant had previously threatened to kill her. She did not take the previous threats seriously.

         ¶ 9 Matteson police officer Murray testified that, on March 26, 2015, he was on patrol when Sieler got his attention and told him she needed help.[2] She was crying and upset and told him she was scared to go home because her ex-boyfriend had sent her threatening text messages. When Murray was talking with Sieler, defendant called her, and she put the telephone call on speakerphone. Murray heard defendant say to Sieler two times "I will kill you." Sieler asked defendant why he wanted to kill her, and he repeated, "I will kill you," and ended the telephone call. Sieler asked Murray to escort her home because she was concerned defendant was there. Murray called Matteson police sergeant Ken Arvin for backup, and they followed Sieler home.

         ¶ 10 Sieler fumbled with her keys and was shaking when she opened her apartment door. There were two children sleeping on couches in the living room. Sieler asked one of them if everything was okay and told Murray that defendant's jacket was on the chair. Defendant jumped out from around the wall in the kitchen and growled. He was holding a knife in his hands and was bending forward at his waist with his arms extended out in front of him. Murray pointed his gun at defendant and ordered him to drop the knife several times. Defendant eventually dropped the knife and surrendered. When Murray was placing defendant into custody, defendant stated that they "could not keep him locked up forever" and he "would get to her and it would not end well for her."

         ¶ 11 Matteson police officer Rankin testified that, on March 26, 2015, when he was processing defendant at the police station, defendant stated "I would take care of her."[3] Rankin told defendant that he should not threaten his girlfriend because he would have to document it. Defendant told him it was okay, "it was already in the text messages," and the "police cannot stop things from happening."

         ¶ 12 Matteson police sergeant Ken Arvin testified that, on March 26, 2015, he entered Sieler's apartment with Sieler and Murray. Later that day when defendant was in lockup, defendant told Arvin that he was sorry for what had happened. Arvin asked him, "Do you have any idea how close you came to getting shot?" Defendant apologized and told Arvin he thought "it was [Sieler] and her boyfriend and did not realize that the police were in the apartment." Matteson police detective Sean White testified that, on March 26, 2015, at 3:45 p.m., he spoke with defendant at the police station in the presence of an assistant state's attorney. He identified the videotaped statement that Sieler made, and the State played portions of the video for purposes of impeaching certain parts of Sieler's testimony.

         ¶ 13 The court granted defendant's motion for a directed verdict with respect to the attempted first degree murder count. Following argument, the court found defendant guilty of stalking and cyberstalking. The court subsequently denied defendant's motion for a new trial, merged the stalking count into the cyberstalking count, and sentenced defendant to two years in prison.

         ¶ 14 II. ANALYSIS

         ¶ 15 Defendant contends that, because subsection (a) of the cyberstalking statute under which he was convicted allows a felony conviction for the mere negligent infliction of emotion distress, it sweeps in innocent conduct and therefore violates due process. Defendant also contends that subsection (a) violates the first amendment because it is an overbroad prohibition on speech. After defendant filed his opening brief and before the State filed its initial response brief, our supreme court filed People v. Relerford, 2017 IL 121094, which addressed the constitutionality of subsection (a) of the stalking and cyberstalking statutes. We allowed the parties to file supplemental briefs.

         ¶ 16 Initially, we note that the trial court merged the stalking count into the cyberstalking count and sentenced defendant only for cyberstalking. In defendant's opening brief, he argues we should vacate his convictions for cyberstalking and stalking. However, in defendant's supplemental brief, he withdrew his argument regarding the stalking count and acknowledged that, because the trial court did not impose sentence on the stalking count, we do not have jurisdiction to decide the validity of defendant's unsentenced guilty finding on the stalking count. See id. ¶¶ 74-75.

         ¶ 17 We also note that, although defendant did not raise his constitutional claims in the trial court, a party may raise a challenge to the constitutionality of a statute at any time. People v. Bryant, 128 Ill.2d 448, 454 (1989). Before we address Relerford and defendant's claims, we first discuss the relevant statutory provision in the cyberstalking statute under which defendant was convicted.

         ¶ 18 A. Cyberstalking Statute

         ¶ 19 The cyberstalking statute, under which defendant was convicted, stated, in relevant part:

"(a) A person commits cyberstalking when he or she engages in a course of conduct using electronic communication directed at a specific person, and he or she knows or should know that would cause a reasonable person to:
(1)fear for his or her safety or the safety of a third person; or
(2)suffer other emotional distress.
(a-3) A person commits cyberstalking when he or she, knowingly and without lawful justification, on at least 2 separate occasions, harasses another person through the use of electronic communication and:
(1)at any time transmits a threat of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint and the threat is directed towards that person or a family member of that person; or
(2)places that person or a family member of that person in reasonable apprehension of immediate or future bodily harm, sexual assault, confinement, or restraint; or
(3)at any time knowingly solicits the commission of an act by any person which would be a violation of this Code directed towards that person or a family member of that person." ...

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