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People v. Atencia

OPINION FILED MARCH 8, 1983.

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

v.

ORLANDO ATENCIA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Roger J. Kiley, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE STAMOS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant Orlando Atencia was charged by indictment with possession with intent to deliver 30 grams or more of a substance containing cocaine. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1401(a)(2).) He was tried by a jury, found guilty, and sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment.

Defendant flew into Chicago on a one-way ticket from Miami on March 16, 1981. Defendant planned to stay in the area only four or five days.

On March 18, 1981, three Hispanic men registered at the Spa Motel in Chicago, Illinois. One of the three signed the name Orlando Atencia to the registry and was assigned room 236. The desk clerk could not positively identify defendant as one of the three men.

On March 19, agents from the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and detectives from the Chicago police department were conducting surveillance on the Belmont Bowl bowling alley in Chicago. They observed defendant and another man enter the alley around 8 p.m. When defendant and his companion left the alley in a car just after 10 p.m., the agents followed them to the Spa Motel. Defendant and his companion entered the motel lobby and went into the elevator. The detectives and agents conducted surveillance outside the motel for about two hours, until 12:30 a.m. on March 20. Neither defendant nor his companion were seen leaving the motel during this time.

A search warrant for room 236 at the Spa Motel was secured on the basis of an informant's tip. The warrant was executed by Chicago police and DEA agents on March 20. The officers entered the room with a pass key.

Upon entering the room, the officers discovered the defendant standing in only his underwear and socks and pointing a gun at them. Defendant was ordered to drop his gun, which he did. A search of the room turned up four plastic bags under the bed containing a white powdery substance and $26,900 in cash in a dresser drawer. Defendant was allowed to retrieve the rest of his clothes in the room and he was placed under arrest.

Laboratory tests on the contents of the four plastic bags revealed that two of the bags contained 1,953 grams of cocaine. Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver and was sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment.

Defendant first contends that the prosecution failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant possessed, with the intent to deliver, 30 or more grams of a substance containing cocaine. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1401(a)(2).

In order to show unlawful possession, the State must show (1) defendant's knowledge of the presence of narcotics and (2) defendant's immediate possession and control of the substance. (People v. Nettles (1961), 23 Ill.2d 306, 307, 178 N.E.2d 361.) Where narcotics are found on premises under defendant's control, it may be inferred that he had the requisite knowledge and possession, absent other facts and circumstances that might leave a reasonable doubt as to guilt in the minds of the jury. (People v. Bell (1972), 53 Ill.2d 122, 126, 290 N.E.2d 214.) Whether there is possession and knowledge are both questions of fact to be determined by the jury, and its findings will not be disturbed on review unless the evidence is so palpably contrary to the verdict, or so unreasonable, improbable or unsatisfactory as to create a reasonable doubt of guilt. People v. Calhoun (1977), 46 Ill. App.3d 691, 694-95, 361 N.E.2d 55.

In the instant case, room 236 at the Spa Motel in Chicago was registered to "Orlando Atencia" on March 18. The following day, March 19, defendant and another man entered the Spa Motel some time after 10 p.m. On March 20, shortly after 8 p.m., defendant was discovered in room 236 at the Spa Motel wearing only underwear and socks. The rest of his clothing had been hung in the room.

This evidence strongly suggests that room 236 was under defendant's control.

• 1 Defendant notes that the desk clerk at the Spa Motel testified that the registration on room 236 expired at noon on March 19. Under the totality of the circumstances presented, however, we cannot say that the jury's conclusion that defendant was in control of room 236 was ...


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