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People v. Lofton

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 8, 1976.

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

v.

ROBERT LOFTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



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

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE JOHNSON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT: Defendant, Robert Lofton, was charged with unlawful use of weapons (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 24-1(a)(10)), and aggravated assault (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 38, par. 12-2(a)). After a jury trial, he was convicted and sentenced to 1-year probation, the first 7 days of which were to be served in the House of Correction. He appeals from his conviction and raises the following issues for review: (1) whether the defendant knowingly waived his right to a jury trial; (2) whether the complaint was defective because it failed to allege an element of the offense charged; and (3) whether the defendant was exempted from the charge of unlawful use of weapons because of his position as a licensed detective.

At the trial, Victor Mladic was called as the first witness for the prosecution. He testified that on January 19, 1975, at about 1:30 a.m., he was sitting in a car that had stopped for a red light at Damen and Blue Island in the city of Chicago. When the light changed, the car ahead of the car the witness was in, pulled into the intersection and was struck by a vehicle traveling east on Blue Island at about 70 miles per hour. After hitting the vehicle in the intersection, the driver continued traveling east on Blue Island so the witness told his companion to follow him. When the cars reached Ashland, the witness' vehicle passed the defendant's car and forced it to the side of the street. Then the witness stated that he and his brother approached the car and opened the door where they found the defendant with a gun in his hand. The witness related how he disarmed the defendant and, with the assistance of his brother, they removed him from the car and held him for the police.

The next witness, Officer Dave Ryeczyk, testified that he responded to a ten-one "officer needs help" on January 19, 1975. And, when he arrived on the scene, he observed a group of people holding the defendant. One man turned a gun over to the officer so the defendant was placed under arrest and advised of his rights. On cross-examination, the officer testified that the defendant's face was bleeding when he arrived on the scene. He also stated that he had no conversation with the defendant other than advising him of his rights.

After the State rested its case, the defendant testified that he was involved in a collision on January 19, 1975, and was temporarily "knocked out." The witness theorized that he bumped his head on the windshield and steering column and testified that he received four stitches as a result of the injury. Although he did not remember what happened immediately following the accident, after stopping his car and attempting to regain his composure, he testified that his car was surrounded by other vehicles and he was removed from his car and beaten. At this point, the witness pointed out that he was a private detective, that he had the gun on the seat, but he denied pointing it at Mr. Mladic. He concluded direct examination by testifying that he was employed by the Inter-Urban Detective Group and the State stipulated to his production in court of an Illinois Department of Law Enforcement card, a city of Chicago registration card, a State Firearm Owners Identification card and an identification card from the Inter-Urban Detective and Security Group.

On cross-examination, the witness testified that he was investigating a divorce case and completed his work at 1 a.m. And, although the witness admitted being involved in an automobile accident, he denied having a gun in his possession when his car was stopped.

• 1 The threshold question to be resolved in this case is whether the defendant waived his right to a jury trial. Defendant contends that he did not knowingly and understandingly waive his right to a jury trial and as evidence to support this contention, he quotes from the following colloquy that took place prior to trial:

"THE COURT: Mr. Laughton [sic], you are charged with unlawful use of weapons, failure to possess State Firearm Owner's Identification card, aggravated assault, failure to register a weapon with the city. Are you ready for trial on these charges today?

MR. LAUGHTON: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: State ready?

MR. WHITE: State will be ready.

THE COURT: Do you have a lawyer to represent you?

MR. LAUGHTON: No, sir.

THE COURT: Do you have money to hire a lawyer?

MR. LAUGHTON: Yes, sir. But, I don't need a lawyer. My weapon was registered and I work for a ...


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