Trial begins in 2006 workplace killing — (The Chicago Tribune)

SSRI Ed note: Man on Wellbutrin, Ambien stabs boss to death with knife, sentenced to 40 years. Appeal re: involuntary intoxication denied, court disagrees meds key factor.

Original article no longer available

The Chicago Tribune

By Matthew Walberg, Tribune reporter

January 7, 2009

Employee killed boss with steak knife after demotion at Northwest Side construction firm, prosecutors say

The workday started normally enough at the offices of Poter Construction and Development on Chicago’s Northwest Side on May 16, 2006.

Accountant Christopher Haase arrived at about 7 a.m., started a pot of coffee and got down to work. Later, he and a co-worker were talking about how great the coffee tasted that day.

Construction estimator Tom Tuduj overheard them.

“He said, ‘Oh, the coffee’s good this morning? I think I’ll have a cup,’ and he walked right between us to go to the kitchen,” Haase testified Tuesday before Cook County Circuit Judge Jorge Alonso.

Another prosecution witness, William Toby Zandier, said Tuduj stopped by his office for a bit to just “shoot the breeze.”

But at about 8:15 a.m., Tuduj walked into the office of his boss, Gary Poter, and fatally stabbed him with a steak knife. Haase, Zandier and other employees heard the commotion, subdued Tuduj and tried to stop the bleeding from Poter’s chest.

“There was blood everywhere, papers all over,” Tuduj’s supervisor, James Koback, testified. “It was a mess.”

No one disputes Tuduj, 36, killed Poter. The issue that will determine his fate is why he did it.

Assistant State’s Attys. Mike Clarke and Steve Rosenblum say Tuduj murdered Poter in a fit of anger over his demotion a day earlier. Tuduj, who had been with the company for only a few months, stood to lose about $10,000 in pay because of the demotion.

Defense attorneys Tom Breen and Todd Pugh argued that Tuduj is bipolar and was wrongly prescribed a toxic mix of antidepressants and sleep medication that caused paranoia and hallucinations and led him to snap. They want the judge to find Tuduj not guilty by reason of involuntary intoxication.

Rosenblum and Clarke repeatedly asked co-workers about Tuduj’s behavior in the weeks and moments before the murder. Was he irrational? Did his eyes twitch or was his speech slurred?

“He was just a normal co-worker,” Zandier said. “He was under the same stress as the rest of us.”

The testimony of Haase and Koback was much the same.


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The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff–Appellee, v. Tom TUDUJ, Defendant–Appellant — (Findlaw)

Appellate Court of Illinois,First District, Fifth Division.

No. 1–09–2536.

Decided: March 21, 2014


¶ 1 Following a bench trial, defendant Tom Tuduj was found guilty of first degree murder and disarming a peace officer. Defendant was sentenced to a term of 40 years’ imprisonment for murder and to a consecutive term of 5 years’ imprisonment for disarming a peace officer. On appeal, defendant contends that: (1) the State failed to present evidence that defendant was not involuntarily intoxicated; (2) his attorneys were ineffective for failing to request a second fitness hearing and the trial court abused its discretion by failing to sua sponte order a second fitness hearing; (3) the trial court abused its discretion and denied defendant a fair sentencing hearing when it declined his attorneys’ request for a continuance prior to the sentencing hearing; and (4) defendant received an excessive sentence. We affirm.

¶ 2 Prior to trial, defense counsel asked the court for an order allowing defendant to be given a psychiatric and psychological evaluation. The State had no objection and the trial court granted the request. After the State received the defense psychiatric reports, it requested that defendant be evaluated for his fitness to stand trial. Defendant was later evaluated by a psychiatrist, Dr. Andrew Kulik, and a psychologist, Dr. Christofer Cooper, of Forensic Clinical Services. Both doctors submitted reports concluding that defendant was fit to stand trial and legally sane at the time of the offense.

¶ 3 At a hearing on April 2, 2008, the prosecutor told the court that the doctors “on both sides” agreed that defendant was fit to stand trial and that neither the State nor the defense had a bona fide doubt as to defendant’s fitness. Defense counsel responded, “I don’t believe that we do, Judge, but since the issue was raised, we thought we should probably spread that of record.”

¶ 4 At a hearing on April 25, 2008, defense counsel told the court that the defense was investigating whether defendant’s actions on the day of the murder were caused by defendant having been prescribed Wellbutrin (an antidepressant) and Ambien (a sleep aid). Defense counsel stated that the defense investigation indicated that these medications likely caused defendant to commit the crime and raised the possibility of an involuntary intoxication defense. The prosecutor later told the court that he did not believe a fitness hearing was necessary because not even the experts that were hired by the defense had found that defendant was unfit to stand trial. Defense counsel responded:

“Your Honor, I think we can go ahead and do it with this understanding. I want to make the representation to the court that I have spent several hours with [defendant], and I’m not questioning his fitness at all; but for purposes of the record, if the court wishes to have the fitness hearing, that’s fine.”

In response, the court stated that “[i]n an abundance of caution, I think that that’s the wise way to proceed.” The prosecutor and defense then confirmed their understanding that defendant was not currently on any psychotropic medications. The parties stipulated to the expertise of the two doctors from Forensic Clinical Services who evaluated defendant and to the foundation for the doctors’ reports. Finally, the parties stipulated that both doctors would opine, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that defendant was fit to stand trial. The court then stated that it had read the doctors’ reports and heard from counsel on each side and that it found defendant fit to stand trial.

¶ 109 Defendant’s final contention is that the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing him to a term of 40 years’ imprisonment given the “overwhelming” mitigating evidence presented and his potential for rehabilitation. Among other things, defendant points to the numerous letters written on his behalf attesting to his good character, to the fact that he suffers from a mental illness, to his lack of a criminal history and to his background, education and employment history.

¶ 110 The trial court is the proper forum for sentencing and its decision as to the appropriate sentence is entitled to great deference and weight. People v. Coleman, 166 Ill.2d 247, 258 (1995). Where, as here, the sentence imposed by the trial court is within the statutory range for the offense of which defendant was convicted, we will not disturb that sentence absent an abuse of discretion. People v. Jones, 168 Ill.2d 367, 373–74 (1995). For the reasons that follow, we find none here.

¶ 111 Defendant first claims that the trial court did not adequately consider the mitigating evidence in sentencing him to a term of 40 years’ imprisonment. We disagree.

¶ 112 When mitigating evidence is presented, it is presumed that the trial court considered such evidence, absent some indication to the contrary other than the sentence imposed. People v. Redmond, 265 Ill.App.3d 292, 307 (1994). Here, defendant offers no evidence other than the sentence imposed to indicate that the trial court did not adequately consider the mitigating evidence. The record shows that the mitigating evidence was presented to the court and the court’s comments clearly reflect that this evidence was given due consideration. The trial court stated that, in imposing a sentence near the middle of the permissible range, it considered defendant’s lack of criminal history, the letters attesting to his character and his value to the community and to his family. On the other hand, the court also heard the evidence in aggravation and considered the nature of the offense and the court’s opinion that defendant refused to take responsibility for his actions. A reviewing court will not reweigh the factors involved in the court’s sentencing determination or substitute its judgment for that of the sentencing court merely because it would have weighed the factors differently. Coleman, 166 Ill.2d at 261–62; People v. Streit, 142 Ill.2d 13, 19 (1991).

¶ 113 Defendant also claims that the court did not adequately consider his rehabilitative potential. Although defendant’s potential for rehabilitation is a factor to be considered in imposing a sentence, the trial court is not required to give greater weight to this factor than to the seriousness of the crime. People v. Boclair, 225 Ill.App.3d 331, 335–36 (1992). Here, our review shows that the trial court gave adequate consideration to defendant’s rehabilitative potential. The court specifically stated that it considered this factor but that defendant’s “ability to deflect responsibility” for his actions made him a dangerous person to the community. The court also noted that “in a fit of anger” defendant had killed a person who was “completely blameless” and that defendant “had excuses but no true remorse.” Our review reveals that the court gave adequate consideration to the aggravating and mitigating factors and we therefore have no basis to alter the sentence imposed. People v. Almo, 108 Ill.2d 54, 70 (1985).

¶ 114 For the reasons stated, the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County is affirmed.

¶ 115 Affirmed.

Justice PALMER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion:

Presiding Justice GORDON and Justice McBRIDE concurred in the judgment and opinion.