from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 14-CF-1063
Honorable John J. Kinsella, Judge, Presiding.
E. Chadd, Thomas A. Lilien, and Andrew Smith, of State
Appellate Defender's Office, of Elgin, for appellant.
B. Berlin, State's Attorney, of Wheaton (Lisa Anne
Hoffman and Edward R. Psenicka, Assistant State's
Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.
JUSTICE SCHOSTOK delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Justices Hutchinson and Hudson concurred in the
judgment and opinion.
1 Defendant, William J. Nelson, had a daughter with Heather
Pittman. Pittman obtained an order of protection against
defendant that prohibited him from, among other things,
sending mail to Pittman. After defendant sent letters to his
daughter at Pittman's address, he was found guilty of
violating the order of protection (720 ILCS 5/12-3.4(a)(1)(i)
(West 2014)), and he was sentenced to concurrent terms of six
years' imprisonment. At issue on appeal is whether
defendant was denied his right to present a defense when the
court barred him from presenting testimony from two attorneys
who had told him that sending letters to his daughter would
not violate the order of protection. Because at least parts
of some of the letters clearly indicate that defendant sent
the letters to communicate with Pittman and not his daughter,
barring the evidence was not improper. Thus, we affirm.
2 I. BACKGROUND
3 After Pittman became pregnant with defendant's child,
defendant began acting violently toward her, and she obtained
an order of protection. That order of protection
"ordered [defendant] to stay at least 1000 feet away
from the residence of [Pittman] and/or protected person(s),
and their residence, school, daycare, employment and any
other specified place." Immediately underneath this
provision, the order of protection provided a definition for
"stay away." Specifically, the order of protection
" 'Stay Away' means for the [defendant] to
refrain from both physical presence and non-physical contact
with [Pittman] whether direct, or indirect (including, but
not limited to, telephone calls, mail, email, faxes, and
written notes), or through third parties who may or may not
know about the Order of Protection."
in the order of protection prohibited defendant from having
contact with his infant daughter.
4 Defendant asserted that, after the order of protection was
entered, he sent a letter to "Chief Public Defender
Robert York" and "explicitly" asked him,
"Am I breaking the law by sending anything to my
daughter?" According to defendant, York said,
"[N]o, you are not until she is named in an Order of
Protection." A week later, defendant asked "Ms.
Nevdal" when he saw her in the hallway, "Am I
breaking the law by sending anything to my daughter?"
According to defendant, Nevdal replied, "No, you are
5 Thereafter, defendant sent numerous letters to
Pittman's home that were addressed to his infant
daughter. Four of these letters are included in the record on
appeal. In these letters, defendant asked Pittman for
pictures of his daughter, professed his love for his daughter
and Pittman, delineated some stories involving Pittman's
drug use, hoped that Pittman would seek drug-addiction
treatment, sought revenge against Pittman's ex-boyfriend
to whom Pittman allegedly lent money, questioned his
daughter's paternity, delineated conversations he and
Pittman had about their sex life, and described how he might
have sexually assaulted Pittman. Included in one letter was a
pamphlet on sexually transmitted diseases and information on
sending money through Western Union.
6 Before trial, defendant advised the court that he was going
to seek a mistake-of-law defense. In doing so, defendant
wished to present evidence that the two attorneys told him
that sending letters to his infant daughter would not violate
the terms of the order of protection. Defendant never
presented a formal offer of proof concerning to what the two
attorneys would testify. Rather, through counsel, he simply
indicated repeatedly that "before sending these letters
[to his daughter], [defendant] was advised by Mr. York and
Ms. Nevdal of the Public Defender's Office that it was
legal to do so."
7 In response, the State filed a motion in limine to
bar defendant from presenting a mistake-of-law defense. The
State claimed that evidence concerning what York and Nevdal
told defendant was irrelevant, because "[n]owhere does
the [violation of an order of protection] statute state a
requirement that the defendant must have knowledge that his
act will be a violation of the order." The State
contended that all it needed to prove was that
"defendant knowingly commit[ted] the act and that he
ha[d] notice of the contents of the order of
protection." Although the court allowed defendant to
testify about his knowledge with regard ...