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People v. De Kosta

APRIL 2, 1971.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ROBERT A. MEIER III, Judge, presiding.


Defendant was found guilty, after a jury trial, of the offense of reckless conduct. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1967, ch. 38, par. 12-5.) Judgment was entered and he was sentenced to a term of nine months in the Illinois State Farm at Vandalia. On appeal defendant's principal contentions are: (1) that the complaint was insufficient to charge him with reckless conduct; (2) that the impeachment of one of his witnesses was improper; (3) that he was denied a fair trial when the prosecutor "suspended the laws of evidence"; (4) that the trial judge erred when he failed to strike a reference to defendant's involvement in "other crimes"; (5) that the cross-examination of defendant's character witnesses was improper; and (6) that the prosecutors used improper evidence in argument to the jury.

Defendant does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence, which may be summarized. The defendant was charged with reckless conduct stemming from a rock throwing incident which took place on August 6, 1968. At trial, Officer Phillip Hardiman testified that during the evening of August 6, 1968, he observed the defendant as a member of a crowd which had gathered at 147th and Leavitt Streets in Harvey, Illinois. He saw the defendant throw a stone he was holding. The stone struck the right hand side of the windshield of a Ford station wagon where a woman was sitting. The woman appeared to be injured. He also saw the defendant and others throw bricks at a passing taxi and police cars and police officers. He knew the defendant by his face and name prior to the night of August 6th.

Officer William Martin also testified that he saw the defendant throwing rocks at passing vehicles. The defendant was but one of many of the crowd throwing rocks. He did not know whether the rocks thrown by the defendant hit anything.

Two other officers, Jackson and Graves, testified that they saw defendant in a crowd at 147th Street on August 6, 1968. They saw various members of the crowd throw rocks and bricks at passing cars. However, neither witness saw the defendant throw any rocks. On cross-examination Officer Jackson was asked by defense counsel if he had discovered whether or not the defendant belonged to any militant group. The officer stated that as far as he knew the defendant was president of a militant organization. On re-direct he testified that defendant was president of the Black Elephants.

Homer Dye testified for the State that he was injured when a piece of cement came through the windshield of his car as he was driving along 147th Street on August 6, 1968.

Dr. William Jackson testified for the defendant that he was well acquainted with the community in which the defendant resided. He stated that he was "familiar with many of the people in the community and in community organizations." To the best of his knowledge the defendant's reputation in the community was that of a law abiding citizen; that in his opinion defendant was truthful; and that generally defendant's reputation is that he is a truthful person.

Lester Crowder testified that he was vice-president of the Black Elephants and that defendant was never associated with the group.

Virginia Doll was another character witness for the defendant. She is a bartender at the Curve Inn in Dixmoor. She knew the defendant for two years. At the Curve Inn he had a reputation as a law abiding and peaceful citizen.

The defendant testified that he "drifted on down" with a crowd after someone said something was going on down at the A & P. He was in the company of Andrea Hughes. When the crowd began to scatter, Miss Hughes and he did likewise. He could see the flashes of guns and he saw policemen firing. He denied throwing rocks at passing motorists. He ran from the area when he heard the gunfire.

Andrea Hughes corroborated the defendant's testimony. She did not see the defendant throw any rocks while she was with him. On cross-examination she denied having said anything in the presence of Officer Martin implicating the defendant in any way with the events of August 6th.

In rebuttal, Officer Martin testified that he was present when Andrea Hughes told one Gerald Phelps that on August 6th she "had a good time," and said "Yeah, I threw a brick through a station wagon rear window. Everything was all right till De Kosta and Bowman started shooting."

Officer Hardiman testified in rebuttal that the defendant "was the same man I saw throwing bricks at passing motorists." He also testified that he heard shots being fired and that seven policemen were shot during the disturbance.


Defendant contends that the complaint for reckless conduct is insufficient to charge him with that offense since the complaint does not charge that his actions endangered a specifically named individual. Reckless conduct is defined ...

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