from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit, Grundy
County, Illinois. Circuit No. 13-CF-183 Honorable Robert C.
Marsaglia, Judge, Presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the judgment of the
court, with opinion. Justices Lytton and McDade concurred in
the judgment and opinion.
SCHMIDT PRESIDING JUSTICE
1 The State charged defendant, Kenton Pellegrini, by
indictment with aggravated criminal sexual assault (720 ILCS
5/11-1.30(a)(2) (West 2012)), criminal sexual assault
(id. § 11-1.20(a)(1)), and aggravated domestic
battery (id. § 12-3.3(a)). The charges stem
from allegations defendant forcefully inserted his fingers or
hand into the vagina of the victim without her consent,
thereby causing harm. A bench trial ensued with Judge Robert
C. Marsaglia presiding.
2 The trial court found defendant guilty on all three counts.
After exhausting posttrial motion practice, the defendant
filed a direct appeal renewing arguments presented in his
posttrial motions. This court affirmed defendant's
conviction. People v. Pellegrini, 2016 IL App (3d)
3 Defendant then filed a petition pursuant to the
Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et
seq. (West 2016)), which advanced to a third-stage
evidentiary hearing. The petition alleged ineffective
assistance of counsel for failure to present expert
testimony. In dismissing the petition, Judge Marsaglia found
that defendant was not prejudiced by the lack of expert
testimony. Defendant appeals, arguing, inter alia,
the dismissal was manifestly erroneous. We affirm.
4 I. BACKGROUND
5 A. Bench Trial
6 This is the second appeal in this matter and, as such, we
borrow from the statement of facts in the direct appeal. See
Pellegrini, 2016 IL App (3d) 150802-U, ¶¶
7 The victim testified at trial that she and defendant
married in July 2001. The couple discussed a divorce in late
2011 and by September 2013, the marriage was
"rocky." The victim described the couple's sex
life in 2013 as "[n]ot good. Very infrequent."
Elaborating, the victim stated, "I had basically just
lost interest. I lost my feelings of love for him. Just the
way he treated me I thought was terrible and basically
treated me like a tool, not even like a person, no
compassion. Just a rough marriage." Defendant, however,
had a high interest in sexual intercourse and would pressure
the victim daily.
8 On September 27, 2013, the victim and defendant attended a
festival in Morris with their neighbors, Richard and Kelly
Mote. The victim did not plan on having sexual relations with
defendant that night. According to the victim, she had one
beer around 8 p.m. before defendant drove the group to the
festival. She believed she consumed approximately six beers
at the festival from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Defendant then drove
the victim and the Motes back to the Pellegrinis'
residence around 1 a.m. Around this time the victim began to
feel dizzy, nauseous, and was experiencing the effects of the
9 The victim recalled vomiting in the backyard and being in a
bathroom inside the house. She did not remember leaving the
bathroom. The next thing she could recall was being on her
bed alone with the lights on, wearing her clothes. After
that, the victim remembered defendant standing next to the
bed, hovering over her, as he told her he wanted to have
sexual intercourse. The victim replied, "just leave me
alone." However, defendant removed the victim's
pants and underwear. The victim told defendant, "No.
Stop." She began kicking defendant and telling him to
leave her alone. The victim pulled away and defendant pulled
her back several times. Defendant pushed and held the victim
down on the bed. The victim continued to kick and push
defendant while he held her down. Defendant had his hands
cupped in such a way that the victim could not tell if he had
something in his hands. Defendant was "jabbing and
pushing and poking his hands into [her]." The victim
described defendant's action felt "like a stabbing
or a punching, just a full force thrust with his hands, both
sides of [her] vagina, [while] saying to [her], 'Here,
take that. How does that feel? I'll do what I want to you
tonight.'" The victim began screaming "Stop.
Stop. What are you doing? Why won't you stop? Why
won't you stop?" The victim testified that she did
not consent to defendant's actions.
10 While defendant continued to force his hand into the
victim's vagina, she became nauseous and blood began
"gushing" from the region. The victim felt like she
had a bowel movement and then began to vomit. Once the victim
started bleeding, defendant left the bedroom, grabbed towels,
and started cleaning up the blood. Defendant did not call for
help. While defendant was cleaning up the blood, the victim
was screaming and crying. Defendant then left the room.
11 When defendant was gone, the victim's "flight or
fight response kicked in." She grabbed a towel, wrapped
it around her body, and ran out the front door of the house.
She ran across the street to the Motes' residence,
knocked on the front door, and began yelling for help.
However, the Motes did not answer the door before defendant
came, grabbed the victim, and carried her home. Defendant
told her to "shut up, stop making a scene, come home,
come home." The victim left blood on the Motes'
front doorstep. Defendant brought the victim back to their
front porch. The victim continued to fight off defendant,
leaving blood and feces on their front porch. Defendant
brought the victim inside the house, placed her on an ottoman
in the entryway but did not call for emergency services. The
victim continued to scream because she was in pain and
12 Subsequently, police and paramedics arrived. According to
the victim, while the first responders attended to her, she
was hysterical and "kind of starting to black out a
little bit[.]" The victim spent four days in the
13 The victim testified that she spoke to Detective Alicia
Steffes when she was released from the hospital. She
acknowledged telling Steffes that she did not recall how she
returned to the house from the Motes' because she was
getting to the point of "blacking out."
14 On cross-examination, the victim admitted she did not
remember many of the events from that evening. For example,
she acknowledged that she could not recall speaking to
Officer Jessica Smith (who was one of the first responders)
and telling Officer Smith that defendant was "too
big" and "got stuck." The victim also
acknowledged she was unable to recall some of the details of
the festival or how she got to the backyard pool. However,
she specifically remembered the time frame during the attack.
According to the victim, "[f]rom the time of the attack,
the time I went to the hospital, I was 100 percent
15 Richard Mote testified that he and his wife attended the
festival with the Pellegrinis. On their way home from the
festival, the victim mentioned going for a swim and went to
the backyard to turn on the pool heater. When the victim did
not return, defendant and Richard went outside to search for
her. A video recording taken by Richard with his cellular
phone showed the victim sitting beside the pool. The video
also showed defendant assisting the victim into the home.
16 According to Richard, once inside, the victim went into
the hallway bathroom. Sometime later, Richard helped
defendant open the bathroom door that was locked from the
inside. The men popped open the locked door and observed the
victim was awake, sitting on the toilet with her elbows on
her knees and hands on her forehead. Defendant then led the
victim into the bedroom. Around 1:45 a.m., the Motes left the
17 Richard fell asleep at his home and was later awoken by a
loud scream. He went outside and heard a voice say, "get
back in the house." About five minutes after he heard
the screams, an ambulance arrived in the neighborhood.
18 Two neighbors that lived on the same street as the
Pellegrinis also testified. Their sleep was also interrupted
by a female screaming in the ...