The case of Illinois vs. Vonzell Whitehead revolves around a
physical altercation that took place on a porch of a Lake County
apartment building in 2019. After a verbal altercation,
Whitehead allegedly assaulted Steven Box with Box's cane on the
apartment's stoop. Whitehead was found guilty of two counts of
aggravated battery in a place of public accommodation and in
2020 was sentenced to 42 months in prison.
In December 2021, Illinois' 2nd District Court of Appeals heard
a challenge over whether or not an apartment porch would be
deemed public or private. If public, the defendant would see
increased penalties. The appeals court ruled in favor of the
state, claiming the stoop in front of the victim's apartment was
deemed public property. The Illinois Supreme Court heard the
appeal last week.
Zachary Wallace, the public defender for Whitehead, told the
justices that the assault did not happen in a public place.
"It is not a location that the public would frequent or loiter
or stay for any purpose," Wallace argued. "To the extent that it
is accessible to the public would be for specific individuals
or, more importantly, for a very limited purpose."
The assault happened after Box heard Whitehead arguing with
someone else outside. When Box opened the door, he was accosted
The state's lawyer, Alasdair Whitney, explained the state's
"The definition of the term comports with the legislative intent
behind the statute's enactment, which is to prevent and punish
more severely these acts of violence that could draw in a member
of the public," Whitney said.
Wallace argued that there is nothing about where the incident
took place that would be inviting to the public.
"The stoop immediately in front of the door in front of one
residence, there is simply nothing to invite the public to
partake in anything," Wallace said.
The court took the case under advisement. If upheld, the
defendant will face harsher penalties.
Andrew Hensel has years of experience as a
reporter and pre-game host for the Joliet Slammers, and as a
producer for the Windy City Bulls. A graduate of Iowa Wesleyan
University and Illinois Media School, Andrew lives in the south
suburbs of Chicago.