WRIT OF ERROR to the Criminal Court of Cook County; the Hon.
JOHN J. LUPE, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE BRISTOW DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied May 18, 1953.
Defendants Paul J. Glenn and Harvey C. Summers, on writ of error, seek a review of a judgment of the criminal court of Cook County, entered in a trial without a jury, finding defendants guilty of violating the confidence game statute, (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1951, chap. 38, par. 256,) whereupon each received a sentence of two to seven years in the Illinois penitentiary.
The essential inquiry presented is whether the evidence established that defendants were guilty of the crime of operating a confidence game in violation of the statute. Other specific issues interposed by defendants include the assertion that the trial court erred in admitting proof of other transactions; that the People did not prove that both defendants participated in the offense; that the length of time over which the trial extended amounted to a denial of a fair trial; that the court failed to consider evidence of defendants' good reputation; and that the prosecutor denied defendants a fair trial by referring to other indictments pending against them.
The record is voluminous, and it would unreasonably prolong this opinion to attempt even to summarize the testimony of all the witnesses. Therefore, we shall confine our analysis to reviewing the evidence pertaining to the Dotson transaction, which was the basis for the indictment, and shall allude summarily to the transactions with other persons both prior to and following the Dotson case, insofar as they directly affect the charge against defendants.
During the early part of July, 1950, Lonnie Dotson and his wife noted in the Chicago Defender, a Chicago newspaper, a quarter page advertisement in bold type presented by the First Apartments Corporation, urging persons who wished to live decently and get out of single rooms into four-room apartments with modern conveniences and reasonable rentals of about $50 a month to telephone a designated number, or secure an application at their offices at 6455 Cottage Grove Avenue. Included in the advertisement were pictures of the exterior and interior of an attractive apartment building.
The Dotsons telephoned the number listed and shortly thereafter received an application blank headed Apartment Owners Inc., soliciting information regarding their financial status and apartment requirements, which they mailed to the office on Cottage Grove Avenue. They received a notice to appear at the office several days later, and were directed to defendant Glenn, who had their application before him. He proceeded to show the Dotsons pictures of buildings, and, when Dotson said that he liked one, Glenn stated, "This is one of our buildings." He explained that it was located at 947 Hyde Park Blvd., and that it would cost the Dotsons $500 to get an apartment in that building, from which sum two months rent, at $75 a month, would be deducted, and the balance repaid within twelve months with 3% interest. Glenn further explained that if he did not get the apartment for the Dotsons within 90 days he would return their money with 3% interest.
At Glenn's suggestion the Dotsons met him that same afternoon at the Hyde Park building, and while he was showing them an apartment purportedly similar to one he could obtain for them in ninety days, he remarked, "Mr. Dotson, you know that I would not have a key to this building if I did not own it." The building, however, was owned by Mrs. Sarah Russo and her husband. They had no agreement with defendants to sell it, and although there had been some discussion of a sale several months before, the Russos had rejected defendants' offer and returned defendant Glenn's worthless check. However, in April 1950, Glenn gave Mrs. Russo another check for $300 just to keep apartments vacant. When that check was returned for insufficient funds defendant Summers paid the obligation, and pursuant to their arrangement Mrs. Russo kept apartments in that building vacant from March until some time in September, and gave Glenn keys to three or four apartments, even though he neither had an interest in the building, nor the right to rent these apartments.
Defendants, without alluding to these arrangements existing at the time the apartment was shown to the Dotsons, endeavored to explain the lack of ownership on the ground that some broker would not get them a mortgage, and Mrs. Russo subsequently refused to sell the building because prejudice developed after a woman was attacked there.
Dotson gave Glenn a cashier's check for $400 dated July 21, 1952, payable to the First Apartments Corporation. Glenn indorsed it, and he and Summers gave it to Lester Antler in payment for keeping apartments vacant for them at 812-822 E. 46th Street. Thus the Dotsons' check was utilized by both defendants in their joint venture in that building.
The Dotsons were given a contract and corporate note signed by Glenn as vice-president of First Apartments Corporation, under which the corporation was obliged to obtain a dwelling satisfactory to the Dotsons within ninety days and to return $500 within seven days after receipt of written notice of termination of the contract. The words "Paid, $400. 7-22-50. Balance due before occupancy" were written on the contract. A corporate seal was affixed to the contract which Dotson testified made him feel assured of getting his money back. At the time these instruments were executed, however, two of the bank accounts used by defendants for the corporations were overdrawn, and a third which had a balance of $85.51 was overdrawn immediately thereafter. Moreover, the First Apartments Corporation, according to their own admissions, owed more than $52,000 from similar transactions with some 150 people, who had paid money to defendants in return for corporate notes and promises of apartments.
On September 9, 1950, Dotson gave Glenn $100 in cash which was noted upon the contract. In response to Dotson's query of how soon he would get an apartment, Glenn assured him that it would be within the next few days, and stated, "We are doing some work over there, and we have to get somebody in the place because we are getting too many vacants, and we are paying out money and nothing coming in." According to Dotson's testimony, the reference to "we" reassured him that Glenn or the corporation owned the building and that he would get an apartment shortly. This belief was further enhanced by the fact that the building was in fact being sandblasted, but by the actual owners, the Russos. Notwithstanding the facts, Mrs. Summers and others employed in the office told people that they were having the building sandblasted.
The Dotsons waited until just before Christmas, 1950, and then telephoned Glenn and informed him that they had to move by the first of the year. He reassured them that he would have something for them in a few days, but explained he could not place them in the Hyde Park building, but would place them in a building on 46th Street, and move them to the Hyde Park building later. Nothing further was done pursuant to that plan.
During the early part of January, 1951, Mrs. Dotson made numerous telephone calls to Glenn, and went to his office about five times, asking for a refund of the $500. Glenn stated that he had no money, and insisted that she give him a seven-day written notice, which she did on January 22, 1951. At the expiration of the seven days, when Dotson demanded his money back, Glenn claimed that he had none. In response to Dotson's inquiry about the place on 46th Street, Glenn said that he had turned it over to Summers and did not know whether it was available. Summers was in the office at the ...