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In re J.M.A.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

December 31, 2019

IN RE J.M.A., a Minor (The People of the State of Illinois, Petitioner-Appellee,
J.M.A., Respondent-Appellant).


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         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, Rock Island County, Illinois. Circuit No. 18-JD-113 Honorable Theodore G. Kutsunis, Judge, Presiding.

          James E. Chadd, Peter A. Carusona, and Dimitri Golfis, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Ottawa, for appellant.

          Dora Villarreal, State's Attorney, of Rock Island ( Patrick Delfino, Thomas D. Arado, and Mark A. Austill, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

         PRESIDING JUSTICE SCHMIDT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justice Carter concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Respondent, J.M.A., pled guilty to a number of felony offenses and was adjudicated delinquent. The circuit court subsequently sentenced him to a term in the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice (IDOJJ). On appeal, respondent challenges only his sentencing. First, respondent contends the trial court failed to make an express finding that commitment to the IDOJJ was the least restrictive sentencing alternative. Next, respondent contends that even if the court did make the required finding, that finding was improper in that it was unsupported by any evidence of efforts to find less restrictive alternatives or any explanation of why such efforts were unsuccessful. Third, respondent argues that no evidence was introduced tending to show that services available through the IDOJJ could meet respondent's individualized needs. Finally, respondent also argues that the court erred in ordering certain restitution. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 The State filed a petition of delinquency on August 15, 2018, that alleged respondent had violated the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (Act) (705 ILCS 405/1-1 et seq. (West 2018)). Specifically, the petition alleged that respondent committed the offense of unlawful possession of a stolen vehicle (625 ILCS 5/4-103(a)(1) (West 2018)) in that he knowingly possessed a motor vehicle belonging to Serina Natalino while knowing said vehicle to be stolen.

         ¶ 4 On August 22, 2018, the State amended the delinquency petition to add eight additional counts. Count II of the amended petition charged respondent with theft (720 ILCS 5/16-1(a)(4) (West 2018)), alleging that respondent obtained unauthorized control over an iPad belonging to Kim Rodgers. The petition alleged that the iPad had "a total value in excess of $500". Count IV charged respondent with unlawful possession of a stolen firearm ( id. § 24-3.8). Count VI charged respondent with a second count of unlawful possession of a stolen vehicle. Count VII charged respondent with a second count of theft, alleging that respondent obtained unauthorized control over an iPhone belonging to Melissa Greenwood.

         ¶ 5 On September 11, 2018, counsel for respondent informed the court that respondent would be pleading guilty to counts IV, VI, and VII. Pursuant to an

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agreement with the State, the remaining charges would be dropped. The State clarified: "The other counts are being dismissed at sentencing but used in aggravation and * * * restitution. There's restitution." The court asked respondent if that was his understanding of the agreement, and he responded affirmatively. The court accepted respondent's plea.

         ¶ 6 A social history report was filed on October 5, 2018. The report detailed respondent's criminal record, which included multiple incidents of theft or attempted burglary. Respondent had twice been placed on juvenile probation in Iowa. The latter of those terms of probation included requirements for tracking and monitoring. The report also listed respondent's frequent police contacts, all of which occurred in 2017 or 2018. Those contacts also included multiple occasions in which respondent had run away from home. In 2017, respondent was placed in the custody of his mother in an "Enhanced in Home Detention Program," which included ankle bracelet monitoring. The report indicated that respondent "physically removed the monitoring device * * * from his person and absconded."

         ¶ 7 Regarding respondent's mental health, the social history report indicated respondent had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and oppositional defiant disorder. Respondent was currently prescribed Focalin and mirtazapine. His mother opined that when respondent "is not on his meds it just seemed like everything would go wrong." After receiving a mental health assessment in July 2018, it was recommended that respondent "engage in psychiatry services in order to stabilize and manage his mental health symptoms." Respondent and his mother reported that respondent had bipolar disorder, though the report indicated that no documentation had been provided in support of that claim. No issues with alcohol or substance abuse were reported.

         ¶ 8 The social history report recommended an indeterminate sentence in the IDOJJ. The report stated: "The minor can receive services to address poor decision making skills in a highly structured and confined setting."

         ¶ 9 The circuit court held a sentencing hearing on November 2, 2018. The State presented no evidence in aggravation other than the social history report. Respondent's mother, R.A., testified that he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and ADHD. She testified that she and respondent had frequently missed respondent's mental health appointments because of financial issues. R.A. was not currently employed. If respondent was released into her custody, she would see to it that he attended psychiatric evaluations with Dr. Robert Young— appointments that she believed would be covered by her insurance plan. She would also keep respondent confined in a manner that the probation department saw fit and would ensure that respondent took his medication. R.A. also detailed the steps she had taken to remove negative influences from respondent's life, including moving so that respondent would not be around the other juveniles with whom he frequently found trouble. R.A. believed that families she had met in the new area would be positive influences on respondent. She had a job set up for respondent at Chick-fil-A.

         ¶ 10 The circuit court determined that respondent should be made a ward of the court. In imposing sentence, the court began by recounting respondent's lengthy criminal history. The court concluded:

"I've reviewed the social history and the— and the addendums. I've looked at the alternatives that could be imposed, and I'm finding the commitment to the

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[IDOJJ] is necessary to ensure the protection of the public from the consequences of criminal activity of the delinquent. I'm finding that reasonable efforts have been made to prevent or eliminate the need for the minor to be removed from the home. I'm finding that secure confinement is necessary after I reviewed the following factors: The age of the minor; the criminal background of the minor; the review of any results and assessments of the minor; the educational background of the minor including whether he was ever assessed for a learning disability, and, if so, what services were provided as well as any disciplinary incidents at school; the physical, mental, and emotional health of the minor indicating whether the minor has ever been diagnosed with a health issue, and, if so, what services were provided and whether the minor was compliant with the services; community services that have been provided to the minor and whether he was compliant with those services and whether they were successful. I'm finding that the services within the [IDOJJ] will meet the individualized needs of the minor."

         ¶ 11 The court sentenced respondent to an indeterminate term of up to seven years in the IDOJJ, or until respondent's twenty-first birthday. The court also ordered restitution be paid to Natalino and Greenwood in the amounts of $853 and $2003.25, respectively. With respect to restitution to Rodgers, the State requested "that the iPad be returned to minimize any sort or restitution that would be sought. We're not asking for any at this time, but if she gets the iPad back sooner, * * * that's less that she'd be asking for."

         ¶ 12 The court subsequently filed a written order reflecting the sentence. The written order is a preprinted form with certain boxes checked and certain blank lines filled in by hand. The preprinted title of the form is "Order of Commitment to the [IDOJJ]." Item No. 4 on the form, located under the heading. "The Court Finds:" is the following preprinted paragraph:

"Commitment to the [IDOJJ] is the least restrictive alternative based on evidence that efforts were made to locate less restrictive alternatives to secure confinement and those efforts were unsuccessful because:"

         Following the colon are three page-width, blank lines. On the form filled out in this case, those lines have been left blank. In the restitution section of the sentencing order, in addition to setting out the monetary sums for Natalino and Greenwood, the court wrote: "Reserved for Kim Rodgers."

         ¶ 13 Respondent filed a motion to reconsider sentence in which he argued that no evidence had been introduced showing reasonable efforts that had been taken to prevent respondent's removal from the home or that efforts toward less restrictive confinement had been made. He also asserted that no evidence had been introduced showing that commitment to the IDOJJ would meet respondent's individualized needs.

         ¶ 14 A hearing on respondent's motion was held on January 24, 2019. The State argued that the circuit court was free to take judicial notice of the various services provided by the IDOJJ, adding: "Through Your Honor's tenure on the bench * * * there are things that are regularly brought to the Court's attention as to the services that are available * * * and the Court does take notice and the court did take notice of the services that are available in the [IDOJJ] * * *."

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          ¶ 15 In denying the motion to ...

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