APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. VINCENT
BENTIVENGA, Judge, presiding.
MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE GOLDBERG DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
John T. Einoder (defendant) was indicted on three charges of possession of a vehicle knowing it to have been stolen (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 95 1/2, par. 4-103(a)), and two charges of possession of a counterfeit certificate of title to a motor vehicle knowing that said certificate was counterfeit (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 95 1/2, par. 4-105(c)). Defendant was found guilty of all charges and was sentenced to three concurrent terms of felony probation for 3 years with the first 3 months to be served on the work release program. Defendant appeals.
We will summarize separately the evidence at trial and at hearing of defendant's motion for a new trial. For clarity we will first summarize defendant's testimony.
Defendant testified he is a businessman engaged as a masonry subcontractor. He is also interested in an electrical subcontracting firm. Defendant owned and had constructed an office building in which his own business was located. Defendant was acquainted with two tenants of the building, Eastman and Vesely. Defendant had done business with both of these men. About March of 1977, defendant's company became the mason subcontractor for construction of a restaurant building in Palos Heights, Illinois. Defendant's company was hired by Burgess Construction Company, the general contractor. This company was operated by Chuck Burgess. Defendant knew Chuck Burgess by another name of Charles Petreikis. Defendant produced business letters, work orders and endorsed cancelled checks signed by this individual as either Burgess or Petreikis in connection with work performed by defendant's company. Defendant had no "reason to disbelieve" Burgess was "other than a responsible and honorable citizen."
We will note here that during trial the use of dual names by this individual tended to cause confusion. The careful trial judge suggested the names be used in combination. We will adopt this suggestion and use the hybrid name "Burgess/Petreikis".
Defendant further testified Burgess/Petreikis told him he had available for sale three Cadillac automobiles. These cars had been repossessed by the Mount Greenwood Bank and could be purchased for $7600 each. This figure would cover the alleged deficiencies due the bank.
Defendant spoke on different occasions to Eastman and Vesely during April of 1977. He explained the situation regarding the cars to them, as Burgess//Petreikis had done for him. Both Eastman and Vesely agreed to purchase a Cadillac automobile on this basis. In addition, defendant told Burgess/Petreikis he would purchase a Cadillac automobile on that basis as a gift for his parents. On each of these occasions Burgess/Petreikis brought the cars to defendant. He also delivered to defendant an envelope containing the certificate of title, applications for transfer of title and a money order covering cost of title transfer. He delivered these items and the automobiles to the purchasers. When Eastman and Vesely bought their cars, defendant did not inspect these documents. Defendant testified he did not believe at the time of the transactions that any of these vehicles had been stolen. Defendant testified the checks received for the Eastman purchase were drawn to his order. He cashed the checks and gave all the proceeds to Burgess/Petreikis.
Defendant testified he sold the automobiles as an agent for Burgess/Petreikis. When the cars were sold Burgess/Petreikis would give defendant the title papers and the car and Burgess/Petreikis would receive the money. Defendant's first knowledge concerning the legal status of the automobiles was about May 2, 1977, when police officers told Vesely his automobile had been stolen. Vesely called defendant and gave him the information. Defendant testified he immediately called Burgess/Petreikis. Burgess/Petreikis told him it was "impossible" and "there must be a mistake." Burgess/Petreikis told defendant he would get the matter straightened out with the bank. Defendant testified that he believed these statements.
When the police first came to see defendant, about May 5, 1977, defendant gave the police a number of papers such as invoices and letters pertaining to his relationship as a subcontractor for the Burgess Construction Company. He told the officers that "basically" Burgess/Petreikis was the seller of these cars. He also told the police where Burgess/Petreikis could be found.
The State introduced evidence regarding actual ownership and theft of the Cadillac automobiles.
Jerome Eastman testified defendant offered him a Cadillac car for $7600. Defendant told him that was the approximate auction price after a bank repossession. Eastman took the car, drove it and returned it to defendant. Several days later, defendant again asked Eastman about the purchase. Eastman agreed to buy the car. He obtained a check for $7600 payable to defendant. Defendant suggested that Eastman transfer the license plates from another Cadillac parked in defendant's driveway to Eastman's car until he could obtain license plates. Eastman sent the title to the Secretary of State in due course.
Eastman noticed the ignition and door key of the car would open the door on the passenger's side but not on the driver's side. He asked defendant about this. Defendant told him to have the key repaired at a dealer and give the bill to defendant. Some two weeks later, investigators told Eastman they believed his car was stolen. They told Eastman they believed he had no knowledge of this fact. The officers said the price Eastman paid for the car was a fair wholesale price. Eastman remained a friendly tenant of defendant and continued their business activities. In fact, defendant reimbursed him for the entire purchase price of the car. Eastman stated he was familiar with an auction book on automobiles and the price was satisfactory.
Mark Vesely purchased a Cadillac automobile for $7600 from defendant. He made out a check payable to defendant for $6800 and gave defendant a note for the balance of $800. Vesely testified he knew Burgess/Petreikis as Chuck Burgess. Defendant told him the cars in question "came from" Burgess/Petreikis. Vesely saw Burgess/Petreikis driving the car. At one time Burgess/Petreikis asked him how the car rode. Burgess/Petreikis was present in the area of Vesely's office on the day Vesely took delivery of the car. Vesely also testified he had financed his purchase of the car. Defendant has made regular monthly payments to save Vesely from a loss. Vesely testified that from the "red book" $7600 was a fair wholesale price for the car.
The State introduced evidence regarding false identification numbers found on the two cars and also that the title documents were counterfeit. They were upon a truck format as distinguished from an automobile type. There was testimony that when a bank ...