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People v. Coleman





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. THOMAS W. VINSON, Judge, presiding.


The defendant, Paul Coleman, and co-defendants John Rafac and Patrick McClard, were found guilty of the offense of burglary after a bench trial by the Circuit Court of Will County. All of the defendants were sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than one nor more than 10 years. This appeal is concerned solely with the defendant Paul Coleman. A separate appeal has been filed by the co-defendants.

The defendant Coleman and his co-defendants Rafac and McClard were on March 21, 1974, charged by an indictment with the offense of burglary. On April 5, 1974, at arraignment proceedings the defendant Coleman entered a plea of not guilty. On May 13, 1974, the defendant Coleman filed motions to suppress evidence illegally seized and to suppress a confession. The co-defendants filed like motions and in addition a motion for severance. It was stipulated by the attorneys for all defendants that there would be one hearing on all motions and that the testimony of the witnesses with respect to each motion would all be heard at this hearing.

The testimony adduced during the hearing on the motions disclosed that an Officer Behner of the Batavia Police Department on January 26, 1974, at approximately 5:55 a.m., while on a routine patrol observed a black Chevelle automobile parked on the north side of Phil's Standard Station lot located in Batavia. Although it was still dark three lights remained on at the gas station and Officer Behner was able to observe a number of individuals (later determined to be five) sitting low in the seats of the automobile. While approaching the vehicle Officer Behner radioed police headquarters, giving the parked vehicle's license number, location, and requested the assistance of a back up unit.

Officer Gatske of the Batavia Police Department testified that normally when police dispatch receives a call it punches the time such call is received on a color coded card. Card number 6583, which represented Officer Behner's call, was stamped 6:11 a.m., January 26, 1974. Testimony established that Behner initialed and changed the 6:11 a.m. stamped time to 5:55 a.m. with a penned-in notation. This was not a customary procedure.

The defendant and co-defendant Rafac testified that Officer Behner arrived at their parked vehicle at 6:10 a.m. Upon arrival Officer Behner inquired of the individuals in the parked Chevelle what the trouble was and was informed by co-defendant McClard that they had a flat tire.

Officer Behner exited from the squad car and noticed that the Chevelle had a city of Joliet sticker on it. He then requested that the driver of the vehicle, defendant Coleman, produce his driver's license. The defendant produced a license in the name of Harold D. Coleman (actually the license of his brother) which showed a birthdate of April 20, 1952. At this time Sergeant Fletcher of the Batavia Police Department arrived at the gas station and the defendant Coleman explained to him that he had a spare tire but no jack. Fletcher advised the defendant that if he would get out his spare tire he would provide a jack. The defendant voluntarily opened the trunk of the Chevelle in the presence of the policemen and they immediately saw four mag tires. The mag tires were wider than the ones used on the Chevelle, were deflated and wedged tightly into the trunk. The defendant explained the mag tires' presence by saying that his brother had given them to him. Officer Behner returning to the driver's door of the Chevelle observed a green paper bag containing a large quantity of pennies lying on the floor of the car.

Officer Behner next requested that all occupants of the car produce some identification and when they did so it was determined that a passenger Talbot was a juvenile.

The juvenile Talbot was then arrested for curfew violation and the other four occupants, including the defendant Coleman, were advised that they were under arrest for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Officer Behner, who radioed in the names and birthdates of the Chevelle's occupants including the name Harold Coleman, then received word from his dispatcher that there was an outstanding warrant on Harold Coleman.

Officer Fletcher advised the subjects collectively of their rights and the defendant Coleman, after being advised as to the outstanding warrant against him from Cook County for obstructing justice, was taken by Officer Behner to the Batavia police station. The remaining four subjects were taken to the station by Officer Fletcher.

In the squad room all five of the subjects, including defendant Coleman, were advised as to their constitutional rights and each individual verbally acknowledged that they understood their constitutional rights. All five individuals were then searched and defendant Coleman removed from his pocket a cylindrical vending machine key and a dullish green plate of metal with the name "Green and Lanier, Joliet" stamped on it.

At approximately 7:30 a.m. Officer Behner learned from Rafac that the defendant, who was posing as Harold Coleman, was in fact Paul Coleman, an escapee from St. Charles Training School, and that further there had been a burglary in Joliet during the preceding night.

Officer Behner next called the St. Charles Training School to inform the school as to the defendant Coleman's whereabouts. At approximately 10 a.m. two youth supervisors from St. Charles, namely Harry Ludwig and Paul Grimes, arrived at the Batavia Police Department. Supervisor Grimes talked to the defendant Coleman in the presence of Ludwig and the defendant told them that he, along with his accomplices, had broken into a gas station in Joliet, Will County, during the previous night where some tires, tools, oil and pennies had been taken and that they had later gone to Geneva where they took some mag wheels from a house. Prior to the defendant's conversation with Grimes he was not again advised as to his constitutional rights.

At approximately noon on January 26, 1974, the Joliet Police Department contacted the Batavia Police Department and informed them that the Green and Lanier Texaco station in Joliet had been burglarized and they believed the defendant Coleman and his four companions to be the perpetrators of the crime. Later in the afternoon officers from the Joliet Police Department arrived in Batavia and took possession of the bag containing pennies, the vending machine key and the credit card plate from the Green and Lanier station. They ...

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