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People v. Dayani

DECEMBER 19, 1973.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. KENNETH WENDT, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied January 11, 1974.

The defendant, Manuchehr Dayani, was indicted on December 21, 1971, by the Grand Jury of the Circuit Court of Cook County for the offense of theft. It was charged that defendant knowingly exerted unauthorized control over a number of checks and an amount of currency in excess of $150.00, the property of Hilton Hotels Corporation, in violation of Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, sec. 16-1(a) (1). He was tried on June 30, 1972, in a bench trial, pursuant to a stipulation of facts entered into by defendant and the State. No oral testimony was presented, though defendant objected to the admissibility of certain stipulated facts. He was found guilty of the offense charged and was sentenced to five years probation. Defendant appeals and raises the following issues:

"(1) That the evidence did not prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, since it was not shown that he had exerted unauthorized control over checks or currency in excess of $150.00;

(2) That there was a material variance between the indictment and the evidence presented at trial; and

(3) That certain letters were improperly admitted into evidence before the trial court to the prejudice of defendant."

The facts stipulated to are as follows:

Defendant was employed as a security officer at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago, under the supervision of Mr. Richard Kampert, head of security for the hotel. Funds collected at the hotel during a weekend period were placed in envelopes and stored in a vault until Monday morning. At 9:00 A.M., Monday, May 18, 1970, the vault was opened and the payments collected were checked. Cash and checks totaling $25,651.35 were found to be missing from the weekend's receipts. The defendant was one of several security guards that had worked at the vault over that particular weekend and had signed papers relating to the placing of the envelopes in the vault by various cashiers in the normal course of his duties.

On August 10, 1971, the defendant was arrested outside his Chicago apartment by agents of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service for overstaying his student visa and changing his residence without providing a forwarding address to Immigration authorities as required by law. He was taken to the Federal Building where he was processed and searched. Defendant was then taken back to his apartment by Mr. Lopez, the arresting agent, to get his passport which he claimed was in the apartment. The defendant found his passport in a suitcase in the entrance hallway closet of his apartment. Mr. Lopez saw several travelers checks made payable to the Conrad Hilton Hotel inside the suitcase. The officer telephoned Mr. Kampert and returned defendant to the Federal Building where he was detained for the immigration violation. On August 11, 1971, defendant was arrested pursuant to a warrant by officers of the Chicago Police Department and was searched by the officers. Two First National City Bank Traveler's Checks, allegedly the property of the hotel, were taken from him and inventoried by the officers in defendant's presence.

Mr. Kampert stated that on January 22, 1971, two other First National City Bank Traveler's Checks, part of those taken in the theft in May of 1970, were returned to him after they had been negotiated by someone. The handwritten identification of the person negotiating these checks was compared with handwriting samples of defendant made while he was working at the hotel. Mr. Linton Godown, a handwriting expert, stated that the handwriting on the back of the checks in question was that of defendant.

Mr. Ray Hinze, the assistant auditor of the Conrad Hilton then described the collection and auditing process used by the hotel. Among other things used to keep track of the amounts collected and placed in envelopes in the vault was a summary sheet of deposits upon which the amount in each envelope is listed and then initialed by the cashier depositing it. The security man on desk duty countersigns each deposit with his initials. Mr. Hinze then said that an examination of their microfilm records of May 16, 17 and 18 of 1970, showed that the four checks in question were inside an envelope taken in the theft, containing $5,306.06. The sheet listing this envelope was countersigned by defendant.

Defendant first argues that it was not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he had "exerted unauthorized control over property having a value in excess of $150" as charged in the indictment. He argues that the evidence introduced by the prosecution only proved that control was exerted over three checks totaling $60.00 and not in excess of $150 as he was charged with and found guilty of taking. Since other people had access to the vault during the period in which the checks were stolen and since only $60 in checks were recovered or traced directly to defendant, it is argued that the trial judge's conclusion, based on circumstantial evidence, that defendant had taken the other property missing was in error.

• 1, 2 We disagree with defendant's contention. It is well settled that the commission of an offense may be established by circumstantial evidence. As was stated in People v. Bernette, 30 Ill.2d 359, 197 N.E.2d 436:

"* * * a conviction may be sustained upon circumstantial evidence as well as direct evidence, (People v. Russell, 17 Ill.2d 328,) it being necessary only that the proof of circumstances must be of a conclusive nature and tendency leading, on the whole, to a satisfactory conclusion and producing a reasonable and moral certainty that the accused and no one else committed the crime. (People v. Magnafichi, 9 Ill.2d 169; People v. Grizzel, 382 Ill. 11.) The [trier of fact] need not be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt as to each link in the chain of circumstances relied upon to establish guilt, ...

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