Apparently not. An Illinois Appellate Court ruled in favor of ex-library employee Edwardo Muniz who had previously been found guilty by the trial court of "threatening a public official." He had been sentenced to 6 months in the Cook County Jail (time actually served) and 30 months of probation. The conviction was overturned since the state law against threatening a public official was not written broadly enough to include a deputy library commissioner.
Testimony: Cynthia Johnson, a custodian at the Roosevelt Branch of the Chicago Public Library testified that on October 15, 2002, Edwardo Muniz entered the building wearing army fatigues and a headband. She said he told her he had worked for the CPL for approximately 20 years, but had recently lost his job because he was not keeping up with his rehabilitation program. Johnson testified that Muniz talked about the people in his life who had hurt him and "wished they could feel his pain." She said he told her he wanted to shoot Karen Danzak-Lyons, the First Deputy Commissioner of the CPL, explaining that he did not want her to die, but to suffer. Further, she claimed that he specifically told her that on the all-staff day at the Harold Washington Library, he would stand across the street and shoot her at a distance. If others from the CPL might get in the way, he might have to shoot them as well. Johnson said she believed Muniz was intoxicated.
Muniz denied threatening Danzak-Lyons, claiming he held her in high regard because she had saved his job a decade earlier. He said that Danzak-Lyons did not fire him, as the termination letter was signed by someone else. He said that Johnson may have misconstrued his conversation with her about his marksmanship skills and that she was cleaning while they were talking.
Trial Court: Found Muniz guilty, noting that Johnson was a bright, articulate witness with no motive to fabricate the conversation. Muniz was sentenced to 6 months in the Cook County Jail (time actually served) and 30 months of probation. As a condition of probation, he was ordered to have no contact with Danzak-Lyons and to keep away from all CPL buildings and branches.
Appellate Court: Reversed. It took a literal look at the law creating the offense of threatening a public official:
(b) For purposes of this Section:
(1) Public official' means a person who is elected to office in accordance with a statute or who is appointed to an office which is established, and the qualifications and duties of which are prescribed, by statute, to discharge a public duty for the State or any of its political subdivisions or in the case of an elective office any person who has filed the required documents for nomination or election to such office. Public official' includes a duly appointed assistant State's Attorney."
720 ILCS 5/12-9(b)(1) (West 2000)
The First Deputy Commissioner of the CPL is not an elective office. The state argued that since public libraries are created pursuant to statute, "it is a logical inference that numerous offices and positions would need to be created to carry out the library's public duty of providing a local, public institution of general education."
The Appellate Court looked at the plain language of the statute. Although the board of library trustees would appear to be covered, the First Deputy Commissioner of the library is not a "public official" as defined by the statute. Consequently, the defendant's conviction was reversed.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. EDWARDO MUNIZ, Defendant-Appellant. NO. 1-03-2518 APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS , FIRST DISTRICT, FIFTH DIVISION 2004 Ill. App. LEXIS 1362 November 12, 2004, Decided NOTICE: THIS DECISION IS NOT FINAL UNTIL EXPIRATION OF THE 21 DAY PETITION FOR REHEARING PERIOD