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People v. Snow

AUGUST 22, 1974.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

LES SNOW, JR., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of McLean County; the Hon. JOHN T. McCULLOUGH, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE TRAPP DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant appeals from a conviction for theft in excess of $150 entered upon a jury verdict. Defendant was sentenced to serve a term of 2 to 5 years in the penitentiary.

The record indicates that the defendant was charged in connection with his sale of a stolen 1969 Ford pickup truck with an attached camper top. The State's case-in-chief showed that two vehicles were involved — the identification number of the stolen truck being altered to conform to the identification number of a wrecked Ford truck obtained by defendant in Indiana.

There is little or no dispute in the record as to the fact that the vehicle sold by defendant Les Snow was, in fact, stolen from one Sylvester Coplin in Chicago on or about March 15, 1971. The gist of this appeal is whether the State showed by circumstantial evidence that the defendant knowingly exerted unauthorized control over a vehicle which he knew at the time was stolen.

Snow testified he had purchased a wrecked 1970 Ford pickup truck in Indiana which, according to defendant, he subsequently took to Chicago to be rebuilt by one "Bob Pronger," the owner of a body shop on 127th Street in Blue Island, Illinois. Snow stated he was unaware of the fact that the vehicle returned to him by Pronger was, in fact, stolen. The whereabouts of Pronger at the time of the trial was unknown.

The evidence showed many differences between the truck bought by the defendant in Indiana and the one allegedly returned to him by Pronger. The prosecution pointed out that although the defendant had given Pronger a wrecked 1970 Ford pickup, the truck returned to him was a 1969 model equipped with a camper, that the returned vehicle had an automatic instead of a manual transmission, a step-up bumper instead of a plain chrome one, and a poorly done white-over-green paint job on the cab. Numerous other discrepancies between the two vehicles were indicated by the evidence.

On the foregoing, the jury found the defendant guilty of exerting unauthorized control over the truck of Sylvester Coplin.

It is argued on review that the court erred in giving an instruction, IPI-Criminal 13.21; that certain statements by the State's witnesses were inadmissible as hearsay and that the defendant was improperly impeached by the introduction of evidence of a prior conviction.

The indictment charged defendant with theft "in that he wilfully, unlawfully and knowingly obtained or exerted unauthorized control over property * * * owned by Les Coplin [sic], with intent to deprive the owner permanently * * *." Such charge is in the language of section 16-1(a) of the Criminal Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, par. 16-1(a)).

In opening statements, the State's Attorney stated that the prosecution would not undertake to prove that "Snow physically stole the truck from Chicago." Upon such statement, defendant argued, in the trial court and here, that defendant was to be convicted of possession of stolen property in violation of section 16-1(d) of the Criminal Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, par. 16-1(d). *fn1

Defendant points out that the authorities hold that theft of property is different conduct than receiving stolen property. From the premise that the State was proving the charge of receiving stolen property, he argues that there was error and prejudice in giving IPI-Criminal instruction 13.21. *fn2

The premise is false. The Criminal Code, article 15, defines the terms in the statutes relating to offenses against property. Section 15-8 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1969, ch. 38, par. 15-8) provides:

"[T]he phrase `obtains or exerts control' over property, includes but is not limited to the taking, carrying away, or the sale, conveyance, or transfer of title to, or interest in, or possession of property."

• 1, 2 It is held that the obtaining of unauthorized control includes, but is not limited, to the initial taking or carrying away (People v. Helm, 10 Ill. App.3d 643, 295 N.E.2d 78), and that the unauthorized possession need not begin at the time of the original taking. (People v. Quick, 15 Ill. App.3d 300, 304 N.E.2d 143.) There is no support for ...


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