People v. Johnson

Decision Date15 April 2021
Docket NumberDocket No. 125738
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee v. Recardo JOHNSON, Appellant.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

2021 IL 125738
182 N.E.3d 728
450 Ill.Dec.

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellee
Recardo JOHNSON, Appellant.

Docket No. 125738

Supreme Court of Illinois.

Opinion filed April 15, 2021.

182 N.E.3d 732

James E. Chadd, State Appellate Defender, Douglas R. Hoff, Deputy Defender, and Maggie A. Heim, Assistant Appellate Defender, of the Office of the State Appellate Defender, of Chicago, for appellant.

Kwame Raoul, Attorney General, of Springfield (Jane Elinor Notz, Solicitor General, and Michael M. Glick and Mitchell J. Ness, Assistant Attorneys General, of Chicago, of counsel), for the People.


JUSTICE MICHAEL J. BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

450 Ill.Dec. 920

¶ 1 Defendant, Recardo Johnson, filed a pro se petition under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (Act) ( 725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 2016)), seeking relief from his conviction of unlawful restraint (see 720 ILCS 5/10-3 (West 2006) ). By the time defendant filed his petition, he had discharged his sentence for unlawful restraint, but he was in prison for failing to register as required by the Child Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registration Act (Violent Offender Act) (see 730 ILCS 154/1 et seq. (West 2006)).1

¶ 2 The two convictions are related in that the age of the victim of the unlawful restraint triggered the registration requirement upon defendant's release. But defendant's duty to register, which was governed by the Violent Offender Act, was not ordered by the circuit court or reflected in the judgment entered on the unlawful restraint conviction.

¶ 3 The postconviction court summarily dismissed the petition as frivolous and patently without merit. ( 725 ILCS 5/122-2.1(a)(2) (West 2016)). The Cook County circuit court determined that, although defendant was currently imprisoned for the registration violation, he lacked standing

182 N.E.3d 733
450 Ill.Dec. 921

to seek postconviction relief from the unlawful restraint conviction because he was no longer "imprisoned in the penitentiary" for that offense. Id. § 122-1(a). The appellate court affirmed the summary dismissal on that basis. 2019 IL App (1st) 163169, ¶ 29, 443 Ill.Dec. 134, 161 N.E.3d 258.

¶ 4 Defendant appeals and asks this court to remand the cause for further proceedings under the Act. Defendant raises two issues: (1) whether the circuit court may consider standing as the sole basis for the summary dismissal of a petition at the first stage of proceedings under the Act and (2) whether his pro se petition alleged sufficient facts relevant to standing to advance the petition to the second stage. For the following reasons, we affirm the summary dismissal.


¶ 6 A. The Guilty Plea

¶ 7 On October 2, 2007, defendant agreed to plead guilty to unlawful restraint (see 720 ILCS 5/10-3 (West 2006) ) in exchange for the State's recommendation of a two-year prison sentence and the dismissal of another charge. Before defendant entered his plea, the circuit court informed him that unlawful restraint is a Class 4 felony, punishable by one to three years’ imprisonment. However, the court informed him, if defendant had been found guilty of the same or greater class felony within the last 10 years, he would be eligible for a maximum prison term of 6 years. The court also told defendant that, upon his release, he would be subject to one year of mandatory supervised release (MSR).

¶ 8 Defendant entered his plea, stating that he understood he was giving up certain rights by pleading guilty, including his right to plead not guilty and proceed to a jury trial where the State would bear the burden of proving him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Defendant confirmed that he was not threatened or promised anything in exchange for his plea.

¶ 9 The State provided the following factual basis for the plea. On July 25, 2007, defendant and a co-offender approached the victim, threatened him with a gun, detained him, and rummaged through his pockets. The factual basis did not specify the victim's age, and the circuit court did not inform defendant that a conviction of unlawful restraint committed against a victim under the age of 18 would trigger a statutory requirement to register under the Violent Offender Act (see 730 ILCS 154/10 (West 2006) ).

¶ 10 The circuit court found that defendant was pleading guilty freely and voluntarily to unlawful restraint, and the court accepted the plea. The court imposed a two-year prison sentence and admonished defendant of his right to a direct appeal. Defendant did not avail himself of that right.

¶ 11 B. The Postconviction Petition

¶ 12 On July 18, 2016, almost nine years after the two-year prison sentence was imposed, defendant used a form to file a pro se petition for leave to file a late postconviction petition in case No. 07-CR-1722301, the unlawful restraint proceeding. Defendant asserted that he was presently incarcerated, he had been incarcerated for approximately one year, and the lateness of his filing was not due to his culpable negligence.

¶ 13 Defendant alleged the following errors in the guilty plea proceedings: (1) the age of the victim was not stated in court, (2) the circuit court failed to inform defendant of his obligation to register under the Violent Offender Act, (3) his plea counsel rendered ineffective assistance for failing to inform him of the registration requirement, (4) the prosecutor coerced

182 N.E.3d 734
450 Ill.Dec. 922

the victim to falsely accuse defendant of committing unlawful restraint, and (5) the circuit court improperly excused the victim's family and defendant's family from the courtroom.

¶ 14 The circuit court summarily dismissed the petition on the ground that defendant lacked standing because he had fully discharged his sentence for unlawful restraint. The court observed that, pursuant to section 5-8-1 of the Unified Code of Corrections ( 730 ILCS 5/5-8-1 (West 2006) ), defendant had been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment and one year of MSR. The court concluded that, "[c]onsidering [defendant's] sentence and his arraignment date of September 4, 2007, it appears he completed both his term of imprisonment and [MSR] at least prior to 2011, whether or not he received day-for-day good conduct credit." See 730 ILCS 5/3-6-3(a)(2.1) (West 2006).

¶ 15 The court referred to the Department of Corrections (DOC) website to confirm that defendant had discharged his sentence for unlawful restraint. The court discovered that, at the time defendant filed his petition, he was independently serving "a term of two years of imprisonment for failure to register" under the Violent Offender Act in case No. 14-CR-1312801. The court observed, "[a]long with the record that [defendant] is currently imprisoned under case [No.] 14-CR-1312801, the IDOC website corroborates his sentence [for unlawful restraint] has in fact been completed."

¶ 16 The court, citing People v. Pack , 224 Ill. 2d 144, 150, 308 Ill.Dec. 735, 862 N.E.2d 938 (2007), stated that the Act "and its remedies are not available to petitioners who have completed their sentences and merely seek to purge their criminal records." The court determined the petition must be dismissed as frivolous and patently without merit because defendant was "no longer imprisoned or otherwise in the custody of the [DOC]" as it related to the case in which his petition claimed error.

¶ 17 C. The Appellate Court Proceedings

¶ 18 The appellate court affirmed the summary dismissal. First, the court held that "standing relates to the ‘substantive virtue’ of a postconviction claim and therefore may be an appropriate consideration for the first stage of postconviction proceedings." 2019 IL App (1st) 163169, ¶¶ 18-19, 443 Ill.Dec. 134, 161 N.E.3d 258 (citing People v. Hommerson , 2014 IL 115638, ¶ 11, 378 Ill.Dec. 459, 4 N.E.3d 58 ). Second, the court held that defendant's petition failed to allege sufficient facts to potentially establish standing under the Act. The court concluded that defendant's imprisonment at the time of filing was not the direct result of the unlawful restraint conviction because the Violent Offender Act's registration requirement is not part of a defendant's criminal sentence for the underlying offense. Id. ¶ 28. The court noted,

"Although in some cases the issue of standing may be nuanced enough that it would be inappropriate for the circuit court to dismiss a petition at the first stage, that is simply not the case here. [Defendant] does not dispute that his sentence and MSR for the 2007 conviction are both completed, and his counsel cannot point to any legal support for an argument that the registration requirement he violated was imposed as part of [defendant's] criminal sentence for the 2007 conviction. In short, there is no arguable basis in fact or in law that would give [defendant] standing to challenge his 2007 conviction at this point." Id. ¶ 29.

¶ 19 Defendant petitioned for leave to appeal pursuant to


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