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People v. Robinson

OCTOBER 7, 1975.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOHN J. MORAN, Judge, presiding.


On 9 November 1971, in a bench trial, defendant-appellant, Benjamin Robinson (hereinafter defendant), was convicted of a violation of section 3(b) of "An Act relating to * * * firearms * * *" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 38, par. 83-3(b)), which subparagraph is as follows:

"(b) Any person within this State who transfers or causes to be transferred any firearm shall keep a record of such transfer for a period of ten years from the date of transfer. Such record shall contain the date of the transfer; the description, serial number or other information identifying the firearm if no serial number is available; and, if the transfer was completed within this State, the transferee's Firearm Owner's Identification Card number. On demand of a peace officer, such transferor shall produce for inspection such record of transfer." *fn1

Section 14 of the Act provides that any person who violates any of the provisions of the Act shall be fined not to exceed $1,000 or imprisoned in a penal institution other than the penitentiary not to exceed one year, or both. Pursuant to the said penalty paragraph, defendant was sentenced to imprisonment in the Cook County Jail for a period of nine months. On 29 November 1971, the trial court allowed defendant's motion for post-conviction bail; bond was set in the amount of $3,000; defendant posted the required bond and was released from custody.

On 8 December 1971, defendant filed motions in arrest of judgment and for a new trial, and later filed a motion for reduction of sentence. On 8 May 1972, all of defendant's motions were denied. On 5 June 1972, defendant filed his notice of appeal from the judgment of conviction and the sentence. Defendant has remained at large under his post-conviction bond.

At defendant's bench trial, the State's first witness was one Peter Zelkovich, an investigator for the Office of the State's Attorney of Cook County and the complainant in the case. His testimony, supplemented by the common law record, supplies the following background for the complaint:

On 12 November 1970, officers of the Police Department of Carbondale, Illinois, had executed a search warrant for guns on improved premises at 401 North Washington Street in Carbondale. The warrant had issued because four officers of the Carbondale Police Department had been shot, and suspects in those shootings had been observed entering the said premises. Ten guns had been seized upstairs at the said premises. The guns had been inventoried with their serial numbers. One of those guns (a .12-gauge riot-type pump-action shotgun) was found to have been purchased by defendant in Chicago on or about 25 July 1970 from Harper's Ferry Ordnance, 180 North Wacker Drive, Chicago, Illinois.

When the witness had received the above information from the Carbondale Police, he found by checking with the Chicago City Collector's Office that defendant had duly registered the gun with the City of Chicago pursuant to the provisions of a Chicago ordinance. He also found that the City had no record (as also required by the ordinance) of any subsequent transfer (change of disposition) of the gun, and that the Chicago Police Department had no record of any report that the gun had been lost or stolen. The witness had then attempted to locate defendant at the residence address given on the City registration form (8020 South Lafayette Street in Chicago), but had been told that defendant no longer lived at that address; nor had the witness been able to locate defendant anywhere else.

The witness had then gone to Carbondale, where he had interviewed Carbondale Police Detective Howard Hantz, who then had custody of the gun. The witness had personally inspected the gun and had checked its serial number. The witness had then asked Detective Hantz to photograph the portion of the gun bearing the serial number, which Hantz had done. The photograph, accompanied by a supporting affidavit of Detective Hantz, was then produced and marked for identification as the State's Exhibit No. 1. Since the witness had himself personally inspected the gun and checked its serial number, he was able to, and did, testify as to the accuracy of the photograph.

The witness had finally learned that defendant was scheduled to appear in court at 1121 South State Street in Chicago. The witness thereupon procured a warrant for defendant's arrest on a complaint that defendant had violated a Chicago Ordinance in failing to notify the City of a change of disposition of his registered weapon. (Chapter 11, section 1-13 of the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago.) The witness had then served the warrant and arrested defendant on 19 August 1971 in the lobby of the building at 1121 South State Street. As soon as the witness had arrested defendant, he began to question defendant. But the two were joined very shortly by defendant's attorney, who had accompanied him to the building; the questions which the witness had been able to ask defendant before the attorney joined them had related solely to the personal history of defendant. After the attorney had joined them, the witness had said that he had no further questions. Defendant was released from custody on preconviction bail.

The common law record shows that the witness signed a complaint charging defendant with the State offense of violating section 3(b) of "An Act relating to * * * firearms * * *" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 38, par. 83-3(b)), in that defendant, on 12 November 1970 at 8020 South Lafayette Street in Chicago, had transferred a described riot pump shotgun to another person and had failed to keep a record of the said transfer; that the witness had moved for leave to file the said complaint; that on 24 August 1971, a preliminary hearing was had on probable cause to file the complaint; that, after a finding of probable cause, the matter was continued to 29 September 1971; that, on that date, the complaint was filed and the cause was continued to 9 November 1971 on motion of the State; that, on 9 November 1971, defendant was arraigned on the State charge, to which he pled not guilty; that, after defendant had waived a jury trial, his bench trial followed immediately, after which defendant was found guilty and judgment of conviction was entered. *fn2

As already noted, Investigator Zelkovich was the first witness for the State at defendant's bench trial. The principle portion of his testimony has already been summarized. His testimony was interrupted in order to allow the State to call its other two witnesses, who were Carbondale police detectives.

Carbondale Detective Larry Hill authenticated a copy of the inventory which he had made of the ten guns, with their serial numbers, which had been seized upstairs at 401 North Washington Street in Carbondale on 12 November 1970. He had been present when the search warrant had been served and the guns had been seized. The copy was thereupon stipulated into evidence as People's Exhibit No. 2. Hill then testified that the ten guns had all finally been returned to the possession of all the persons who had been on the premises when the guns had been seized, so that defendant's shotgun was no longer in the custody of the Carbondale Police. Later in his testimony, he supplied the names of one Leonard Thomas and one Melvin Boyd as the persons to whom the guns had been returned.

Carbondale Detective Paul Staffy testified that he had been present at the seizure of the guns and had observed Detective Hill make the inventory of the guns with their serial numbers. He identified People's Exhibit No. 1 for identification as a photograph ...

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