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Crime & Courts

Victim's sexual history to be kept out of rape trial

Brenton W. Cleveland, (center) flanked by his attorneys, Gary Johnson (left) and R. James Haule, listens Tuesday to Chief Judge Robbin Stuckert during a May 1 hearing.
Brenton W. Cleveland, (center) flanked by his attorneys, Gary Johnson (left) and R. James Haule, listens Tuesday to Chief Judge Robbin Stuckert during a May 1 hearing.

SYCAMORE – With the defense unable to call its first witness Friday, the trial of Brenton W. Cleveland, 19, who is accused of raping two girls during his 18th birthday party, will begin at
9 a.m. June 26.

Cleveland, of the 34700 block of Glidden Road, Kingston, and his attorneys, R. James Haule and Gary Johnson, were in court Wednesday to hear Chief Judge Robbin Stuckert’s ruling on whether evidence could be introduced that could show one of the victims also had sex with her boyfriend that night.

Rape victims’ sexual history generally is barred from being disclosed at trial by Illinois’ rape shield law. The law makes exceptions when the activity involves the defendant or is constitutionally required.

Cleveland’s lawyers planned to introduce, among other evidence, text messages that they said shows one of the victims also had sex with her boyfriend the night of the alleged rape. Assistant State’s Attorney Alicia Caplan, however, said the texts were nonspecific, and that there’s no proof the victim had sex that night other than the alleged assault.

Stuckert denied the motion in part. Should the defense be able to prove that the victim was sleeping with the defendant in the room where the rape is believed to have occurred, it can be introduced. If it is inconclusive who she was with, it cannot be introduced.

Both Johnson and Caplan plan to call the victim’s boyfriend to the stand, and Johnson said that he plans to call Cleveland, as well.

Cleveland is charged with sexual abuse and criminal sexual assault stemming from incidents involving two separate victims at his parents’ home in May 2016. The incidents occurred during a party celebrating Cleveland’s 18th birthday, police have said. Cleveland has requested a judge rather than a jury to decide the case.

If convicted of the most serious charge, criminal sexual assault by force, Cleveland could be sentenced to four to 15 years in prison. He also would have to register as a sexual predator for life.

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