People v. Relerford

Citation104 N.E.3d 341,2017 IL 121094
Decision Date30 November 2017
Docket NumberDocket No. 121094
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant, v. Walter RELERFORD, Appellee.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

2017 IL 121094
104 N.E.3d 341

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant,
Walter RELERFORD, Appellee.

Docket No. 121094

Supreme Court of Illinois.

Opinion filed November 30, 2017

104 N.E.3d 343

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Springfield (David L. Franklin, Solicitor General, and Michael M. Glick and Garson S. Fischer, Assistant Attorneys General, of Chicago, of counsel), for the People.

Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Patricia Mysza, Deputy Defender, and Jonathan Yeasting, Assistant Appellate Defender, of the Office of the State Appellate Defender, of Chicago, for appellee.

Steven W. Becker, of Chicago, Eugene Volokh and Gary T. Schwartz, of Los Angeles, California, and Ilya Shapiro, of Washington, D.C., for amici curiae Cato Institute et al.

Robert R. Stauffer, Clifford W. Berlow, and Blake P. Sercye, of Jenner & Block LLP, and Rebecca K. Glenberg, both of Chicago, for amicus curiae American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

104 N.E.3d 344

¶ 1 Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant, Walter Relerford, was convicted of stalking ( 720 ILCS 5/12–7.3(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2012)) and cyberstalking ( 720 ILCS 5/12–7.5(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2012)) and was sentenced to serve a prison term of six years. Defendant appealed. The appellate court declared that the provisions of the stalking and cyberstalking statutes under which defendant was convicted are facially unconstitutional as violative of substantive due process and vacated his convictions on that ground. 2016 IL App (1st) 132531, 404 Ill.Dec. 505, 56 N.E.3d 489. This court granted the State's petition for leave to appeal as a matter of right. Ill. S. Ct. R. 317 (eff. July 1, 2017). We now affirm the judgment of the appellate court, albeit on a different basis than that relied upon by the appellate court.


¶ 3 Defendant was charged in a four-count indictment with two counts of stalking ( 720 ILCS 5/12–7.3(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2012)) and two counts of cyberstalking ( 720 ILCS 5/12–7.5(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 2012)). Count I charged defendant with stalking based on allegations that he (1) called Sonya Blakey, (2) sent her e-mails, (3) stood outside of her place of employment, and (4) entered her place of employment and that he knew or should have known that this course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress. Count II charged defendant with stalking based on the same conduct specified in count I but alleged that he knew or should have known that his conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for her safety. Count III charged defendant with cyberstalking based on allegations that he used electronic communication to make Facebook postings in which he expressed his desire to have sexual relations with Sonya Blakey and threatened her coworkers, workplace, and employer and that he knew or should have known that his conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for her safety. Count IV charged defendant with cyberstalking based on the same conduct specified in count III but alleged that he knew or should have known that his conduct would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.

¶ 4 At trial, the State presented evidence of the following relevant facts. Sonya Blakey was employed by Clear Channel Media and Entertainment (Clear Channel), where she managed and appeared on-air for a gospel radio station called Inspiration 1390. From May to August 2011, defendant worked as an intern for Inspiration 1390. In September or October 2011, he applied for a position as board operator at the station. Blakey and Derrick Brown, one of her coworkers, interviewed defendant for the position. After the interview, defendant sent Blakey a follow-up e-mail inquiring as to whether the position had been filled.

¶ 5 Defendant subsequently was informed that he was not being offered the position. In response, defendant called and e-mailed Blakey, as well as several of her colleagues, asking whether he could intern at the station again. Blakey testified that she received about five such e-mails from defendant. None of these e-mails contained any threatening language.

¶ 6 In January 2012, Blakey became aware that defendant was also contacting other Clear Channel employees. At around the same time, Blakey's manager told her to report any e-mails or telephone calls that she received from defendant to the human resources department. According

104 N.E.3d 345

to Blakey, sometime between January and March 2012, Clear Channel took the position that defendant was not welcome at the station and that Clear Channel employees were not to respond to his telephone calls and e-mails.

¶ 7 On one occasion in March 2012, Blakey saw defendant through a window as she was leaving work. Defendant and several companions were standing on the sidewalk outside of the office building in which Clear Channel is located. Defendant saw Blakey and waved at her, but Blakey did not wave back and just continued on her way. Although defendant did not follow her or verbally communicate with her, this encounter made Blakey feel "a little scared" and "a little nervous."

¶ 8 Sometime around late March or early April 2012, Jeffrey Garceau, an executive assistant to Clear Channel's president, directed defendant to stop contacting Clear Channel employees.

¶ 9 On April 4, 2012, Blakey was finishing her broadcast when defendant walked into the studio unannounced. Blakey switched her show to automated programming and asked defendant why he was there. Thereafter, Blakey and one of her colleagues escorted defendant from the building. Although defendant did not threaten her or put up a struggle while being escorted from the premises, the incident caused Blakey to feel "very nervous, very startled, shocked," and "scared."

¶ 10 On April 9, 2012, Blakey received an e-mail from defendant apologizing for the studio visit. In the e-mail, defendant stated, "[m]y intentions were not to startle you or to catch you off guard." Blakey conceded that this e-mail did not contain any statements threatening her safety or the safety of anyone at Clear Channel.

¶ 11 Around the same time that defendant sent the apology e-mail, Blakey learned from a colleague who was a Facebook friend of defendant that he had made several postings on Facebook about her. Defendant did not send the Facebook posts directly to Blakey, and because she was not one of his Facebook friends, she could not view the posts through her own Facebook account. However, Blakey's colleague e-mailed the posts to her. The Facebook posts stated as follows:

"This is a motherfucking orderI: f my shit gets shut down by any and everyone who does, dies. You got till Friday at 5:00 p.m. to find some type of job for me with Clear Channel Chicago, maybe a board op or something. If you don't, Saturday is going to be the worst day of your life. That's a motherfucking order, bitch, ass, punk. Send it through 100 shundulah jobo ho 1 [sic ]."

"The order: If Sonya's vagina is not in my mouth by next Friday, bury the entire Michigan State football team from 1993. That's the order. Send it through. One hundred."

"Just like the folks at Clear Channel think I want to come back to get close to Sonya, I mean, don't get me wrong, who wouldn't want to be close to her? She's wonderful and addictive to be around. The truth of the matter is, since I was 10, I've always wanted to work for WGCI, and that was before it was called Clear Channel. That was back in the 332 South Michigan Avenue days, suite 600. But now, since they are a. [sic ]"

"How am I gay? I want to fuck Sonya. There's nothing gay about that."

"I still love you, Sonya. Who gives a shit about that other shit? I'm a man before anything. I'm not afraid of anyone. Life is bullshit anyway. I wonder what will happen when I'm dead and gone. I wonder will they just move on to the next person and treat them the same way they are treating me.

I know everything and I'm still not mad. I'm definitely worried about you,
104 N.E.3d 346
though; especially since these Chinese people talking about killing everyone on the 27th and 28th floor of Clear Channel. That's fucked up.

I'll ride for you, Sonya. But these Chinese people don't fuck around. I think I'm going to need to ask Randall for some army weapons to fuck with them. I got your back.

But if the shit gets rough, you better scratch, bite, kick or do something."

¶ 12 As a result of the Facebook posts, the management at Clear Channel advised Blakey to stay home from work until the police located defendant. Blakey took a couple of days off work because defendant's actions made her feel afraid for her own safety. Blakey returned to work after defendant was apprehended on April 12, 2012.

¶ 13 In defense, defendant acknowledged waving to Blakey through the window while he was standing on the sidewalk in March 2012, but he explained that he often patronized the businesses and restaurants on the ground floor of the building in which Clear Channel is located. He also admitted entering the studio on April 4 but stated that he did so only in an effort to inquire about working at Clear Channel. Defendant conceded...

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  • United States v. Weiss
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of California
    • July 28, 2020
    ...a mechanism or instrumentality in the commission of a separate unlawful act," apart from the speech itself. People v. Relerford, 422 Ill.Dec. 774, 104 N.E.3d 341, 352 (Ill. 2017) (citing Stevens, 559 U.S. at 471, 130 S.Ct. 1577 ). The exception originates from the case of Giboney v. Empire ......
  • Dugan v. State
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    • Wyoming Supreme Court
    • November 6, 2019
    ...essential elements" the same as the statute the Illinois Supreme Court declared unconstitutional on its face in People v. Relerford, 422 Ill.Dec. 774, 104 N.E.3d 341 (Ill. 2017). Mr. Dugan is incorrect. The Illinois statute was broader than § 6-2-506.[¶20] The Illinois court ruled the statu......
  • Bey v. Rasawehr
    • United States
    • Ohio Supreme Court
    • June 16, 2020
    ...of the speech. It "cannot be justified without reference to the content of the prohibited communication." People v. Relerford , 2017 IL 121094, 422 Ill.Dec. 774, 104 N.E.3d 341, ¶34. It requires an examination of its content, i.e., the person(s) being discussed, to determine whether a viola......
  • State v. Billings
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    • Connecticut Court of Appeals
    • December 20, 2022
    ...defendant's Facebook posts were not integral to criminal conduct; they were the criminal conduct. See People v. Relerford , 2017 IL 121094, 422 Ill.Dec. 774, 104 N.E.3d 341, 352 (2017) (concluding that speech integral to criminal conduct exception was not applicable because there was not so......
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1 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy Vol. 45 No. 1, January 2022
    • January 1, 2022
    ...864 N.W.2d 204, 209 (Minn. Ct. App. 2015); Keyes v. Biro, No. B271768, 2018 WL 272849 (Cal. Ct. App. Jan. 2, 2018); People v. Relerford, 104 N.E.3d 341, 352 (Ill. 2017); Littleton v. Grover, 2019 WL 1150759, No. 51217-3-II, *11 (Wash. Ct. App. Mar. 12, 2019); Siegle v. Martin, No. BUR-L-267......

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