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People v. Daniels





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County; the Hon. James Quetsch, Judge, presiding. JUSTICE VAN DEUSEN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied April 27, 1983.

Defendant, Roland Daniels, appeals his conviction for the offense of felony theft (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 16-1(a)) and his sentence of 18 months of periodic imprisonment, a fine of $6,900, and restitution in the amount of $2,100.

Defendant was indicted for felony theft (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 16-1(a)) "in that he knowingly exerted unauthorized control over property of Louis J. Stein, property being a 1978 Cadillac Seville, True VIN #6S69B8Q468916, False VIN #6S69B8Q468116 having a total value in excess of $150.00, intending to deprive Louis J. Stein permanently of the use of the property."

At the trial on these charges on July 6, 1981, Louis J. Stein testified that he purchased a 1978 dark grey Cadillac Seville bearing the VIN #6S69B8Q468916 on December 31, 1977; that it was missing from in front of his Evanston home on the morning of February 16, 1978, after he had parked it the previous evening; that he never gave anyone permission to drive or keep the car; and that he never saw the car again and signed title over to his insurance company pursuant to a claim settlement.

A special agent for the Illinois Department of Law Enforcement testified that he examined a 1978 silver-grey Cadillac Seville in the possession of the Indiana State Police in July 1980 and found it to have an altered public VIN number glued into the dashboard holder. Specifically, the third-to-last digit in the metal plate, originally a numeral 9, had been rendered flat and a numeral 1 had been diestamped in its place, though slightly out of line with the other numbers so that it read 6S69B8Q468116. All the other VIN numbers were unaltered and read 6S69B8Q468916. Documents and testimony established that the Illinois Secretary of State's office had no record of an Illinois title issued for a 1978 Cadillac bearing the serial number 6S69B8Q468116 and that an Illinois title had been issued in 1978 for a 1978 Cadillac bearing the serial number 6S69B8Q468916, but it had not been licensed in 1978, 1979 or 1980 and a salvage certificate was issued for it in February 1979.

Documents and testimony established that defendant licensed a 1978 Cadillac Seville with the altered VIN number on February 16, 1978, and licensed it in 1979 and 1980; that such car was added to defendant's automobile insurance policy by telephone request on February 17, 1978; and that defendant or Kathleen Kelly, with whom defendant lived, brought the car into an Aurora dealership for repairs six times between July 1978 and July 1979. The court reporter who transcribed defendant's grand jury testimony read portions of that testimony in which defendant described his purchase of a 1978 Cadillac for $7,500, when he was living in Aurora in 1978. He later moved to Woodridge, and neighbors there testified that defendant had and drove a 1978 silver or grey Cadillac during summer 1979 and for about one year and that both defendant and Kelly drove the automobile during that time.

After hearing arguments of counsel, the court found defendant guilty. His post-trial motion was filed August 5, 1981, and alleged inter alia that the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction. It was denied on August 14, 1981, immediately prior to sentencing.

The presentence report included defendant's bachelor's degree and nine-year employment with the Department of Corrections and his resignation as Chief of Advocacy Services upon conviction for this offense. Individuals who worked with him praised his work. The report also noted his 1958 narcotics conviction and 10- to 12-year penitentiary sentence as well as his 1971 gambling conviction and $25 fine. The report detailed his assets and liabilities. It also stated that Stein had paid a $100 deductible, according to the terms of the insurance policy on the car, and that his wife lost about $2,000 worth of merchandise that she was taking to her store in Wisconsin because the merchandise was in the car at the time it was stolen.

At the sentencing hearing, defense counsel tendered seven letters in support of a request for probation. After hearing arguments of both sides, the court imposed a sentence of periodic imprisonment for 18 months, with three separate two-week periods (the first two weeks, another two weeks after one year, and the last two weeks of the sentence) to be served in the Kane County Correction Center. Defendant was also ordered to pay costs of $70, a fine of $6,900, and restitution in the amount of $2,100, which was to include payment to Stein's wife for the lost merchandise.

• 1 Defendant first argues on appeal that he was not proved guilty of felony theft beyond a reasonable doubt for three reasons: (1) the State failed to prove defendant possessed the particular automobile described in the charging instrument, (2) the State failed to prove defendant exerted control over the victim's automobile in Kane County, and (3) the State failed to prove defendant possessed the victim's automobile with the requisite criminal intent. While it is true that proof of these matters was mainly circumstantial, a conviction may be sustained upon circumstantial as well as direct evidence. (People v. Bernette (1964), 30 Ill.2d 359, 367.) In this first issue, defendant has critically examined each discrete item of circumstantial evidence, pointed out its flaws and diminished its weight, and he has drawn the conclusion that the evidence was, therefore, insufficient for conviction. We disagree.

• 2 In People v. Kilgore (1975), 33 Ill. App.3d 557, this court concluded that the evidence in that case was sufficient to prove defendant guilty of the offenses of felony theft and possession of a motor vehicle with a falsified identification number (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 38, par. 16-1(a)(1); ch. 95 1/2, par. 4-103(b)), stating:

"In order to warrant a conviction based on the circumstances of a defendant's recent exclusive and unexplained possession of a stolen vehicle or a vehicle with falsified identification numbers the evidence must be of `such a conclusive nature as to lead, on the whole, to a satisfactory conclusion, and such as to produce, in effect, a moral certainty that the accused, and no one else, committed the crime, and it must be such that the circumstances proved cannot, upon any reasonable theory, be true and the defendant innocent.' (People v. Hooper, 364 Ill. 320, 325 (1936). See also People v. Burton, 6 Ill. App.3d 879, 890-91 (1972).) It is not necessary, however, that circumstantial evidence exclude every possibility of the defendant's innocence or produce absolute certainty in the mind of the trier of the facts. (People v. Smith, 107 Ill. App.2d 267, 270 (1969).)" (33 Ill. App.3d 557, 560.)

The trier of fact need not be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt as to each link in the chain of circumstances relied upon to establish guilt, but it is sufficient if all the evidence, taken together, satisfies the factfinder of the accused's guilt. People v. Marino (1970), 44 Ill.2d 562, 580; People v. Bernette (1964), 30 Ill.2d 359, 367.

The requirement that defendant's guilt be proved beyond a reasonable doubt does not mean that the factfinder must disregard the inferences that flow normally from the evidence before it. Here the inferences from the evidence pointed toward defendant's guilt. (People v. Russell (1959), 17 Ill.2d 328, 331.) While the circumstantial evidence relied upon must not give rise to any reasonable hypotheses under which the defendant could be innocent of the crime charged, that does not mean that the trier of fact is required to search out a series of ...

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