On October 17, 2018, Harold Artice Ivy, 18, pled guilty to the offense of Involuntary Manslaughter, a class 3 felony, in relation to the death of Toby Sanders, 56, of Carmi, Illinois, acknowledging that the evidence was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the offense of Involuntary Manslaughter. Class 3 felonies have a sentencing range of 2-5 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections or up to 30 months of probation or conditional discharge. On December 10, 2018, the State called 3 witnesses to testify during the sentencing hearing while the defense called 3 witnesses. After hearing arguments from counsel at the conclusion of the sentencing hearing, Judge T. Scott Webb sentenced Ivy to the maximum amount allowed on this charge: 5 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections with 1 year of Mandatory Supervised Release (formerly known as parole). Ivy was represented by Public Defender Brian Shinkle. Carmi Police Department was the investigating agency.
“Though I am sickened that this offense has been classified as a class 3 felony with a standard sentencing range of 2-5 years in Illinois Department of Corrections, I am appreciative of Judge Webb agreeing with our argument and sentencing Ivy to the max allowed under the law. I again urge those of you who share my outage with this law to contact your legislative representatives to change this law.
As promised in my statement following Ivy’s open plea of guilty, the following is a statement of the evidence and applicable law to answer questions as to what happened and why this case ultimately proceeded the way that it did.
First and foremost, Illinois jurisprudence includes the bare fisted blows principle: “There is a long-standing principle in Illinois that death is not ordinarily contemplated as a natural consequence of blows from bare fists.” People v Jones, 404 Ill. App. 3d at 748.
As to the evidence in this case based on witness statements, police reports, medical records, and an autopsy report, the facts are essentially the following: on June 18, 2018, Harold Artice Ivy initiated an altercation with an individual who was in a vehicle traveling south on 5th Street in Carmi. After this altercation, the vehicle fled south with Ivy running towards it. Following this initial incident, Ivy struck Toby Sanders who was in some form on his bicycle on the east side of 5th Street facing south; there is no evidence to say beyond a reasonable doubt that he was in motion or stationary on the bicycle at the time of the incident or that there was any other interaction between Ivy and Toby. Upon being struck, Toby fell to the east (his left) and hit the left side of his head on the pavement with said fall causing massive trauma to the left orbital area of his skull. Though no one actually witnessed Ivy strike Toby or Toby’s fall, it is reasonable to infer from the evidence that Ivy in fact struck Toby on Toby’s right side. Ivy was seen fleeing from the scene by multiple witnesses. A few other witnesses also stated that Ivy later indicated that he had struck a guy on a bike. Ivy’s friend stated that he did not see Ivy strike Toby but assumed that Ivy did. When Ivy’s friend saw Ivy coming back towards him and away from where Toby was, Ivy indicated that they needed to leave. There is no evidence that Ivy’s friend actively took part in either incident or was able to view the second incident. Toby was ultimately taken by ambulance to the hospital where he remained until he passed away on July 1, 2018 from the blunt force trauma suffered after his head struck the pavement.
There have been rumors that Ivy used brass knuckles; there is zero evidence to substantiate that rumor after reviewing witness statements, medical records, and physical evidence. Again, the blunt force trauma to the left side of Toby’s head was from his head hitting pavement after Ivy struck him from his right side. Plus, as brass knuckles were not used in the first incident, there is zero reason to believe that brass knuckles appeared out of nowhere for the subsequent incident.
There have been rumors that Ivy beat Toby after the initial strike; there is zero evidence to that effect, including reviewing the medical records and autopsy report and speaking with the forensic pathologist. There have been rumors that the incident was captured on video by Ivy’s friend. We obtained a search warrant for his phone at the conclusion of Ivy’s friend’s interview; based on the description given by others, if there was a video, it would have captured moments after the incident rather than the incident itself. Upon seizing the phone pursuant to the warrant, it was turned over to the Illinois State Police in Springfield in mid-July with the indication that they would have the video, if there was one, within a short period of time. To this day, the Illinois State Police has been unable to open the phone and find any such video. Nevertheless, Ivy’s right to a speedy trial within 120 days on the Involuntary Manslaughter charge was up near the end of October with certain essential witnesses not responding to my office or the police while other key witnesses directly or indirectly indicated that they would not be cooperative; present and cooperative witnesses are necessary for presenting evidence in a trial.
In analyzing the available evidence, Illinois statutory law, and Illinois case law, I reached out and spoke with members of the Illinois State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor Office, as well as prosecutors of surrounding counties and most of our local law enforcement officers. The consensus is this: under Illinois law, this is beyond a reasonable doubt a case of Involuntary Manslaughter. As someone who has successfully prosecuted two individuals for Murder, I wanted to seek something other than Involuntary Manslaughter after realizing its statutorily authorized punishment. Nevertheless, we cannot change the actual available evidence or the applicable law. To be clear, there is no such thing as a class X felony of Aggravated Battery causing death charge in Illinois, and there is no other available offense of a higher classification and stiffer punishment for this case within Illinois’ criminal code.
Involuntary Manslaughter is basically when an individual performs an act, lawful or unlawful (such as striking another without justification), in a manner that recklessly results in the death of another person, i.e. he may intend or know his conduct (such as a bare fisted blow) but does not intend or know the result of his conduct at the time of striking the other individual is certain to be death of another. It is what is called a general intent crime, which means that the individual may intend or know his conduct but does not have to intend or know the result that occurs.
Murder is a specific intent crime, which means that not only does the individual have to intend or know his conduct, but he must also intend or know that a specific result will occur. To sustain a Murder charge, this means that a trier of fact must conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) a defendant intentionally or knowingly performed a certain act that caused death of another individual, and (2) that the defendant intended for his act to cause the particular result of death or great bodily harm or knew that his act would cause the particular result of death or great bodily harm. “Great bodily harm” has been identified by some Illinois courts as being more grave or serious than lacerations, bruises, or abrasions that would characterize “bodily harm”, as is expected from a bare fisted blow. Illinois courts have consistently held to the principle that this intent or knowledge cannot be found by the trier of fact to find someone guilty of murder in a case where an individual is struck by bare fisted blows, specifically in a case with the individual falling and hitting his head on the pavement with said fall resulting in massive head trauma which ultimately caused that person’s death, unless it is proven that there is some sort of exception to this principle (e.g. significant size and strength disparity such as adult and child or elderly woman and strong young man or a beating with many blows after the individual is unconscious); sufficient proof of any exception is not clearly present in this case whatsoever. Again, the basis of this is the “long-standing principle in Illinois that death is not ordinarily contemplated as a natural consequence of blows from bare fists.” See People v Jones. People v Crenshaw. People v Nibbe.
In some of the recent bare fisted blows cases, the trial judge has granted the defense’s motion for a directed verdict based on the bare fisted blows principle; a directed verdict means that the court throws out the charge without the jury ever being able to decide on it. In other cases, the judge has allowed it to go to the jury for the jury to return a “not guilty” verdict as to the murder charge. In the cases that the prosecution is fortunate enough to get the jury to return a guilty verdict on the murder charge, appellate courts or the Illinois Supreme Court have overturned the conviction and remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial or for a new sentencing on a lesser included charge, such as the class 3 felony of Involuntary Manslaughter or the class 3 felony of Aggravated Battery; these courts do so on the basis of the bare fisted blows principle.
The present case is also not a case under the Felony Murder Doctrine. Illinois courts have held that Aggravated Battery cannot be the predicate felony for such a charge unless there is an independent felonious purpose other than the act that ultimately causes the death. Here, there is no independent felonious purpose; Ivy struck Toby who fell to the ground and struck his head on the pavement which ultimately caused his death. This case is limited by the bare fisted blows principle.
There have been questions about Ivy being placed on electronic home detention pursuant to an ankle monitor until his sentencing hearing. Admittedly, that is not something that I would typically agree to. Regarding that decision though, I point to what was mentioned previously about Ivy’s right to a speedy trial within 120 days running out at the end of October (less than two weeks from the day of his guilty plea) with certain essential witnesses not responding to my office or the police while other key witnesses directly or indirectly indicated that they would not be cooperative. We waited as long as we could to allow ISP to find additional evidence on that phone. Knowing on the day of the plea that Involuntary Manslaughter was the offense on which to proceed, that we would not receive anything from the Illinois State Police on the alleged video before the conclusion of the 120-day period, and that essential witnesses for both incidents were either absent or uncooperative, I chose to proceed as we did to get the deal done. I considered a conviction on a charge related to Toby’s death my chief responsibility, and I therefore concluded that it was best to have Ivy electronically monitored while awaiting sentencing on the maximum charge rather than attempting to rush a trial in 12 days without having essential witnesses to testify and then potentially see Ivy walk out of the jail a free man with no monitoring and no punishment for what he did. There is no worse feeling for a prosecutor than to see a jury acquit a guy because they believed there was not enough evidence though the jury believed that the defendant was guilty. With an electronic ankle monitor, the White County Sheriff’s Department would know if Ivy left his residence or if he cut off the ankle monitor. Plus, he would be subject to charges of Escape if he violated those terms of electronic home detention, which is a mandatory consecutive offense.
There have also been questions about the dismissal of the Aggravated Battery, which is also a class 3 felony. Under Illinois law, when a court imposes multiple prison sentences at the same time, they are to be served concurrently unless an exception applies; no offense or circumstance in this case is a listed mandatory consecutive sentence. Plus, the one act-one crime rule means that criminal acts that are based on the same action merge with only one conviction entered and one sentence imposed even if a jury finds a defendant guilty of multiple charges. Again, certain witnesses were also not responding to my office or the police.
As I have often said, seeking justice in crimes of violence and property crimes are what I believe to be the most basic and serious responsibility of any government, even if the laws passed in Springfield do not reflect my opinion. Those crimes have victims whose natural rights from God have been violated. It will continue to be my guiding principle while I am allowed to serve in this capacity, regardless of who is involved as victim or defendant.
Again, my thoughts and prayers are and have been for Toby and his loved ones. Toby deserved justice for what happened to him. In my opinion, the law in this case does not allow justice to be served. I am disappointed that there was not more that I could have done for him under these circumstances.”