Articles Posted in Kidnapping

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A 6-year-old boy from East Moline who was kidnapped in Illinois and taken to Thailand was recently returned home safe and sound. Interestingly, the man who kidnapped the boy is actually his own father. According to WTHITV 10, the boy was not returned to his mother on June 19th after a court arranged visitation with his estranged father. The next day, the East Moline Police Department issued a warrant for the father’s arrest and, after working with several federal agencies, was able to track the father to Bangkok where he had been detained by local authorities for an immigration violation. The kidnapped child was turned over to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok and was returned to his mother on July 12th. According to the authorities, the father has been charged with kidnapping.

Is it Possible to Kidnap Your Own Child?

In Illinois, a person can be convicted of kidnapping (720 ILCS 5/10-1) if they knowingly and secretly confine another against his or her will:

If you watch the news or use social media, you no doubt heard about a pair of Washington state siblings who thwarted a potential kidnapping of their 22-month-old brother. The attempted kidnapping – which was caught on camera and shows the kidnapper running away with the boy in his arms, the siblings running close behind – is every parent’s worst nightmare and reinforces the idea of “stranger danger.” But kidnapping encompasses much more than that.

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Illinois Kidnapping Laws

In Illinois, a person commits the crime of kidnapping if he knowingly:

  1. And secretly confines another against his will;
  2. Carries a person from one place to another, by force or threat of force, with the intent to secretly confine her against her will, or;
  3. Tricks or entices a person to accompany him to another location with the intent to secretly confine the person against his will.

I will discuss each crime separately, to provide a better understanding of the types of actions that can constitute kidnapping under Illinois laws.

Secretly confine against one’s will

This form of kidnapping does not require that the victim be moved to another location or even be snatched off the street. The victim must only be confined against her will. The confinement can occur in any public or private place – even the victim’s own home. The location itself, or how the victim got there, is irrelevant to whether the crime was committed. The victim must have only had a reasonable belief that she was unable to leave.

Carry a person from one place to another

This is the most commonly thought of kidnapping scenario, the unknown assailant attacking a person on the street, or removing a child from his home in the middle of the night, and moving him to a secret location to be held for ransom. The movement does not need to be very far to fall into this category of kidnapping. A victim can be pushed into the kidnapper’s car and driven a block away to an abandoned building, and it would constitute a kidnapping.

Using tricks or enticement to move a person

Again, the typical scenario that comes to mind is the stranger in the car who tells the child, “Come with me and I’ll show you my puppy.” In this form of kidnapping, the victim willingly goes with the kidnapper, but under false pretenses.

The ‘knowingly’ requirement

Kidnapping is a specific intent crime, which means that the kidnapper must have known he was holding the victim against her will. If the kidnapper had a reasonable belief that the victim consented to being held, or consented to accompany him to a third location, then he failed to commit an essential element of the crime and cannot be convicted.

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A Cook County man was arrested last week and charged with felony aggravated domestic battery after allegedly grabbing a female friend and dragging her in to her garage and refusing to let her call for help for almost 24 hours. Although arrest documents include a kidnapping charge, the Cook County state’s attorney only charged the defendant with battery.

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Illinois Kidnapping Laws

The word kidnapping makes most people imagine a person being snatched off the street, moved to a secret location and held for ransom. And while those actions do constitute a kidnapping, it is not the only way the crime can be committed.

Under Illinois law a kidnapping can be committed if a person “knowingly and secretly confines another against his or her will.” The facts of this case make it possible for a kidnapping to have occurred, but only if the defendant knowingly confined the victim against her will. This means that he had to have intended to confine her in the home. The fact that she felt she was unable to leave, absent some outward showing by him that she was unable to, is insufficient to support a kidnapping charge. In other words, her belief that she was held against her will must have been reasonable based on all of the circumstances.

In defending against a kidnapping charge similar to this, we would look closely at the following to determine whether the defendant “knowingly” confined the alleged victim:

  • His intent;
  • Whether he said anything that could have reasonably caused the victim to feel that she was unable to leave;
  • Whether he physically prevented her from leaving, either by the use of restraints or blocking the doors and windows;
  • Whether he cut or otherwise disabled the landline phone to prevent her from calling for help, or;
  • Whether he hid her cell phone or kept it on him so that she couldn’t get it, or whether it was out in the open and easily accessible.

If the answers to these questions are no, then the likelihood is high that a jury could be convinced that the victim’s belief that she could not leave the home were unreasonable, and the defendant could not be convicted of the crime.

At this point it is unclear why the state’s attorney did not indict on the kidnapping charge. The victim indicated that the defendant left her home at 10:45 a.m., approximately 9 hours after the battery was committed. The fact that he voluntarily left her home without causing any additional harm raises doubts that he intended to confine her. It seems likely that upon further investigation, the prosecutor found that the answers to at some of the questions posed above raised reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant knowingly confined the victim, as required under the statute, and declined to file kidnapping charges because there was insufficient evidence to support it. Continue reading

In September a woman was charged with felony aggravated kidnapping and misdemeanor battery after allegedly trying to kidnap a two-year-old boy from the luggage carousel at O’Hare International Airport. According to the boy’s mother and eyewitnesses, the woman grabbed the boy and tried to flee down an escalator before being apprehended by authorities.

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Chicago Kidnapping Charge

Under Illinois law there are several different means of committing the crime of kidnapping. In this case, the defendant fulfilled the portion of the law that makes it a crime to knowingly, and with force, carry a person from one place to another, with the intent to confine that person against his will. The crime was elevated to aggravated kidnapping because the child was under the age of 13.

You may wonder why the defendant in this case was charged with kidnapping, as opposed to attempted kidnapping. Authorities apprehended her within minutes of taking the child; in fact, she had not even removed the child from the airport. If the child was reunited with his mother within mere moments of the defendant grabbing him how could he have been kidnapped?

A kidnapping charge has nothing to do with the amount of time the child is separated from his parents, or even how far away he is being held. The crime of kidnapping is complete once the child is forcibly removed from one location to another. So even though in this case, the child was only moved from one end of the baggage claim to the other, the movement was enough to bring the charge of kidnapping.

Although stranger abductions of children are predominant in the news – think a child held by a non-family member or acquaintance, 50 miles or more from their home for at least one night – they make up less than 1% of all kidnappings. The majority of kidnappings involve family abductions or a child confined in one location for at least one hour. And “confinement” may be nothing more than sitting in the kidnapper’s house eating ice cream and playing video games.

In child abduction cases, it is not a defense that the child willingly accompanied the kidnapper. Under Illinois kidnapping law, confinement of a child under the age of 13 is considered to be done without parental consent, even if the child willingly accompanied the kidnapper. In such cases, the only defenses would be mistaken identity, or a misunderstanding as to whether the child’s parents consented to the “confinement.”

In the case of this defendant, her mother indicated that she had mental issues and had recently gone off her medication. It may be possible to argue that she is unfit to stand trial, enter a plea or be sentenced because she is “unable to understand the nature and purpose of the proceedings against (her) or to assist in (her) defense.”

If the defendant is found unfit to stand trial, either by the court or the jury, but there is a “substantial probability” that treatment can make the defendant fit to stand trial within a year, the court can order the defendant to undergo treatment for the purpose of making her fit for trial. If, however, the court or jury finds that there is not a substantial probability that the defendant will be fit for trial within a year even with treatment, the state may move to have the charges against the defendant dropped, or to have a discharge hearing, where the judge hears all evidence against the defendant and, if found guilty, can have her held in a treatment facility for up to two years (five if the charge was first-degree murder).

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A Chicago man was arrested last week after shooting his ex-girlfriend in the thigh; he also shot the girlfriend’s mother, who is a Chicago police officer, numerous times, and kidnapped his son. Charges are pending, but it is likely the man faces at minimum charges of attempted murder, aggravated assault with a weapon and kidnapping. When arrested, the defendant allegedly admitted to the shootings, asking police, “Did I kill her?” and saying, “I didn’t want this to happen, I didn’t want it to go this far.”

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Defense when Defendant Admits to Crime

In all criminal defense cases, the defense attorney’s goal is to get the best possible result for his client. The ultimate goal is an outright acquittal, where the defendant is found not guilty and walks out of the courthouse a free man. Yet in some cases, all the available evidence points to the defendant’s guilt, so an acquittal is not a viable defense strategy. This does not mean, however, that the defendant has no options – and it is these cases where an experienced criminal defense attorney can make all the difference.

We will assume, for this discussion, that the defendant’s statements to the police upon his arrest were in fact made, and that they are a true admission of his guilt. That confession, coupled with both shooting victims likely being able to identify him as the shooter, the defendant and girlfriend’s son being found in his custody, and the gun and spent casings being found in his car – assume again they are a match for the weapon used – all point to his guilt, and would make it difficult to argue a case of mistaken identity, accidental misfiring or self-defense.

The goal of the criminal defense attorney in this case, then, would be to work to get all or some of the charges reduced or dropped. The kidnapping charge has the potential to be reduced to child endangerment or dropped entirely. Technically the defendant’s actions meet the definition of aggravated kidnapping – he transported his son (because he did not have visitation with his son at the time, he is considered to have kidnapped him) while armed with a firearm and while discharging a firearm that caused great bodily harm to another person.

However, a case could be made that at the moment of the kidnapping, the defendant was actually acting in the child’s best interest. The child’s mother and grandmother had just been shot – leaving him alone and frightened in the middle of a crime scene was potentially more dangerous than the defendant removing him from the scene. The fact that the boy was soon found unharmed at the home of another family member adds additional support to reducing or dropping that charge.

The defendant is also allegedly a Gangster Disciple, a notorious Chicago-area gang. The prosecution may be willing to enter into a plea agreement for a reduced sentence in the defendant were willing to testify against any other current gang members. The defendant may also qualify as a participant in Chicago’s Gang Intervention Probation or Gang Violence Reduction Strategy programs.

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A Waukegan woman was sentenced to 24 months of probation and six months intermittent imprisonment, to be served via electronic monitoring and home confinement, for her role in the kidnapping, beating and sexual assault of another woman. The defendant helped her cousin, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison, kidnap his ex-girlfriend, but was not involved in the sexual assault or beating. The defendant was initially charged with aggravated kidnaping, but the charge was reduced to kidnaping due to her testimony against her cousin.

Chicago Plea Agreement

This is a case where the prosecution and judge made the right call, and highlights the importance of having an effective and experienced criminal defense attorney.

The defendant admitted to participating in the kidnapping, although she had no idea when she and her cousin stopped at the victim’s home that the kidnapping would happen. In the case of kidnapping, the fact that she was unaware of her cousin’s intentions is irrelevant. Under Illinois law, a kidnapping occurs when a person “knowingly…carries another from one place to another with intent secretly to confine that other person against his or her will.” Once the victim was placed in the defendant’s car and she drove off, she committed the act of kidnapping, because she knew she was transporting the victim to another location against her will.

The judge in the case admonished the defendant for failing to contact police once she realized what was going on. In this situation, it is probably safe to assume that since the defendant had no idea her cousin intended to kidnap the victim, she was shocked that he was capable of not only kidnapping, but the subsequent beating and repeated sexual assaults. She likely feared for her safety, which caused her to assist in kidnapping the victim and prevented her from reporting the sexual assault to police during the 21 hours the assault occurred.

While that fear was insufficient to get the charges against her completely dropped, it was a sufficient mitigating factor that, when combined with her willingness to cooperate with the prosecution and testify against her cousin, was enough to get the charges against her reduced.

An experienced criminal defense attorney knows that a jury trial is not always the wisest option. Sometimes the circumstances of the case, coupled with the willingness of the prosecution to negotiate, necessitate accepting a plea agreement. Accepting a plea agreement should not be considered defeat. Plea agreements, when properly structured through skillful negotiation by an experienced criminal defense attorney, not only save the defendant the stress and uncertainty of trial, but usually result in minimal prison time.

In this case, the defendant only served five months in prison following her arrest. Although home confinement and electronic monitoring is no fun, it is a better outcome than a conviction for aggravated kidnapping, which can add up to 25 years to the regular 18 – 30 months imprisonment handed down for kidnapping. Continue reading