APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANCIS
J. MAHON, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE STAMOS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Following a bench trial, defendant Edgar Hoover, a Chicago police officer, was found guilty of the theft and forgery of another policeman's paycheck. Defendant was sentenced to 30 months' conditional discharge with the stipulation that he make restitution of the amount of the stolen check ($542.25) to the currency exchange which honored the forged instrument. Defendant had taken this appeal, alleging that the finding of guilty by the trial court was improper since he did not waive trial by jury, and that the testimony of the State's handwriting expert was insufficient to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
On March 1, 1977, Officer Willie Eaglin went to his assigned police station at 365 West Oak Street to obtain his paycheck. He went through the stacks of checks and, not finding his own, notified Officer French of the security unit on duty. When French could not find the check either, Eaglin formally reported the check as missing. On June 30, 1977, Eaglin and several other persons gave handwriting exemplars to the Chicago Police Department. A document examiner for the department examined the submitted exemplars and compared them to Eaglin's check, which by this time had been returned with a purportedly forged endorsement. Following examination of these documents, Officer Hoover, assigned to the same station as Eaglin, was arrested and indicted for theft, alteration of a document, presentation of the forged instrument, and possession with intent to deliver the forged instrument.
Immediately prior to the trial, the record reflects the following exchange:
"The Clerk: Edgar Hoover.
Mr. Coghlan [defense attorney]: We are ready for trial, Judge.
Mr. Crystal [assistant State's Attorney]: Good afternoon, your Honor.
The Court: Ready for trial?
Mr. Crystal: Yes, your Honor.
The Court: Bench or jury?
Mr. Coghlan: Bench trial, your honor.
The Court: All right, we will proceed immediately.
Mr. Crystal: You want a motion to exclude witnesses?
Mr. Coghlan: Yes, motion to exclude ...