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Illinois Supreme Court Ruling in E2 Nightclub Stampede

Illinois Supreme Court Ruling in E2 Nightclub Stampede

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Published by Chicagoist
This is a copy of the Illinois Supreme Court's unanimous decision overturning an appeals court decision in the E2 nightclub stampede, effectively reinstating the convictions of Swain Kyles and Calvin Hollins, Jr.
This is a copy of the Illinois Supreme Court's unanimous decision overturning an appeals court decision in the E2 nightclub stampede, effectively reinstating the convictions of Swain Kyles and Calvin Hollins, Jr.

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Published by: Chicagoist on Apr 04, 2013
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2013 IL 113482
ex rel.
CITY OFCHICAGO, Appellant, v. LE MIRAGE, INC. (Calvin Hollins, Jr., 
et al 
., Appellees). 
Opinion filed April 4, 2013.
JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, withopinion.Chief Justice Kilbride and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Garman,Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.
 ¶ 1I. INTRODUCTION ¶ 2Respondents, Calvin Hollins, Jr., and Dwain J. Kyles, through acorporation, Le Mirage, Inc., owned and operated a restaurant andnightclub in a two-story building located at 2347 South MichiganAvenue in the City of Chicago. In 2002, the City filed a building codeenforcement action in the circuit court of Cook County, alleging thatdangerous and hazardous conditions existed on the premises inviolation of the building code. On July 19, 2002, the court entered anorder, which it revisited and reentered on three subsequent occasions, prohibiting occupancy of the second floor. Respondents neverthelesscontinued to operate the nightclub on the second floor until February17, 2003, when there was a fight on the dance floor, and securityguards released pepper spray to break up the fight. Panic ensued, and patrons rushed to exit the nightclub, crowding into a narrow staircase
to reach the first-floor exit. Tragically, 21 people were crushed todeath, and 50 others were injured. ¶ 3The City then filed a petition for adjudication of indirect criminalcontempt against respondents for willfully violating the court’sorders. After a jury trial, respondents were convicted of indirectcriminal contempt and sentenced to two years in prison. ¶ 4Respondents appealed, arguing that the trial court erred ininstructing or not instructing the jury on certain matters, makingcertain evidentiary rulings, and considering certain evidence atsentencing. Instead of addressing the issues raised by respondents, theappellate court reversed their indirect criminal contempt adjudicationsand vacated their sentences, finding that they were not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of willfully violating the building court’sorders because the orders were ambiguous and did not provide inreasonable detail the acts prohibited. 2011 IL App (1st) 093547. ¶ 5This court allowed the City’s petition for leave to appeal. For thefollowing reasons, we reverse the appellate court’s judgment andremand to the appellate court for consideration of the issuesrespondents raised but the appellate court did not address. ¶ 6II. BACKGROUND ¶ 7In the 1980s, Lesly Motors, Inc., began leasing the subject premises to respondents. The lease provided that respondents would be responsible for all structural and nonstructural repairs andmaintenance of the building. Respondents operated variousrestaurants and nightclubs in the building up to, and including, thedate of the tragedy. During the relevant time period, they operated arestaurant known as Epitome on the first floor of the building. On thesecond floor, they operated a nightclub known as Epitome 2 or E2,which consisted of a main dance floor, two bar areas, and amezzanine along three walls, which extended approximately 15 feetover the second floor. Initially, the mezzanine, which was suspendedabove the second floor by trusses connected to the ceiling, was notclosed in with glass or drywall. However, respondents later remodeled the mezzanine, using the trusses to create separation for several VIP rooms and skyboxes. ¶ 8On April 29, 2002, a City building inspector inspected the premises and found that the VIP rooms on the mezzanine wereconstructed improperly and without a permit. On June 18, 2002, the-2-
City filed a building code enforcement action against Lesly Motors,alleging that dangerous and hazardous conditions existed on the premises in violation of the building code and seeking an injunctionrequiring Lesly Motors to correct 11 violations. ¶ 9On July 19, 2002, the parties entered their first appearance in building court. Assistant corporation counsel Demetrius Kareappeared for the City, and Edward J. Morris appeared for LeslyMotors. Le Mirage was voluntarily impleaded into the action. Itsattorney, Thomas Royce, could not appear so his office mate, BradleyPrendergast, appeared in his stead and waived service of summons onLe Mirage’s behalf. ¶ 10During a brief discussion before the hearing, Kare andPrendergast preliminarily agreed that the VIP rooms and mezzaninewould be closed. At the outset of the hearing, Kare stated:“Judge, City has cited several violations pertaining to thesecond floor V.I.P. rooms attached to this nightclub. *** [LeMirage] agrees not to occupy the second floor V.I.P. rooms.”Prendergast stated: “That’s correct, Judge.” The judge madehandwritten notes on the court file (half sheet) stating: “BA [byagreement] Mirage [
] will not occupy 2nd floor VIP rooms.” ¶ 11The judge asked the City if there were other issues to beaddressed. In response, Kare asked to call Marguerite Shahi, a City building inspector, who inspected the building on July 16, 2002. Kareasked Shahi: “Other than the items that we already addressed, is thereanything else that’s dangerous and hazardous that you would like toaddress to the Court?” She responded:“One is the substandard partitions that were used to build theV.I.P. rooms that are supported by the [bow truss] roof. ***[T]here should be absolutely no weight on structural membersespecially suspended from a [bow truss] roof ceiling. So, thewhole second floor would be dangerous and hazardous ***.”Kare then asked her: “And an Order today to not occupy that secondfloor would abate your concerns?” She responded: “Yes.” Kare thenasked her: “Are there any other violations besides the second floor that you are concerned about?” She responded: “No. The second floor is the major one.” ¶ 12At the close of the hearing, the court stated: “Your agreement isno occupancy of the second floor. You have to keep it vacant.”-3-

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