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People v. Baker





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Ogle County; the Hon. F. Lawrence Lenz, Judge, presiding.


An Ogle County jury found defendant, Percy Baker, guilty of burglary (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 19-1(a)), on October 13, 1981; the circuit court sentenced him to a 14-year extended-term sentence in the Department of Corrections. On appeal, defendant raises the following issues: (1) Whether the trial court erred in admitting evidence insinuating defendant was involved in other crimes; (2) whether the trial court erred in sentencing defendant to an extended term based upon a prior conviction where the record does not indicate whether that conviction was the result of a trial or a guilty plea, and; (3) whether the trial court abused its discretion in imposing the maximum extended-term sentence. We note that no post-trial motion appears in the record.

Defendant's burglary conviction arose from the burglary of the Travis' residence. The evidence adduced at trial, circumstantial in nature, established that on July 9, 1981, Mr. and Mrs. Travis returned home at 4:30 p.m. Mr. Travis went to the door of his house and discovered it to be unlocked. He entered the home, set his lunch bucket in the kitchen, and went back outside to commence work on certain chores. He saw a black man walking down the road coming from a bridge east of their hog house. He found the presence of a black man unusual, but could not identify defendant at trial as this man. Mr. Travis then returned inside. In the bedroom he discovered that his wife's "owl" bank had been cracked open and half-dollars were scattered on the bedroom floor; nothing else appeared to have been disturbed. He also found a pamphlet on the floor which gave instructions on the use of a specific cleaning product.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Travis had commenced her outdoor chores without entering the house. A black man approached her, identified at trial as defendant, carrying a spray bottle and a blue portfolio, who attempted to sell a cleaning product to her. She went inside to ask her husband about the purchase and discovered the half-dollars on the bedroom floor and the pamphlet which she had never seen before. Ed Travis, their son, testified that although no evidence of damage to any windows or doors existed, he discovered his key ring missing containing a key to the house which he had left outside in his truck.

Deputy Darrell Cash of the sheriff's office arrived at the Travis' residence. Cash looked at the pamphlet identifying Austin Distributor as the product's distributor. He testified at trial, over defendant's relevancy objection, that the sheriff's office had been receiving complaints about salesmen selling this product. He spoke to Michael Eagle, defendant's supervisor, who gave an address for Austin Distributors, which corresponded to the one written on the pamphlet. He went to that address and found an abandoned building. Again, testifying over defendant's relevancy objection, the witness stated that he attempted to contact Mr. Eagle by phone with no avail.

Meanwhile, defendant, accompanied by six other sales people, went to the Dairy Freeze Too restaurant at around 5:30 p.m. He asked Jackie Jergens, an employee, to exchange half-dollars for paper money but Miss Jergen's supervisor would not allow it. Deputy Cash and Sergeant Tom Miller arrived at the restaurant. Cash told defendant he wanted to talk about a burglary, and defendant denied any involvement. Cash patted down defendant and discovered and confiscated a pocket knife from defendant's back pocket identified at trial as belonging to the Travis' son. Defendant then ran back to the restaurant and into the bathroom. The police followed him, prevented him from closing the bathroom door, and then heard noises sounding like objects hitting the floor. Overcoming defendant's resistance, the police found a gold diamond ring, a watch, a chain, and another ring on the bathroom floor, identified at trial as items taken from the Travis family. At the restaurant, Cash talked to Mr. Eagle who opened defendant's portfolio, seen earlier by Mrs. Travis when defendant approached her, and found 29 half-dollars and paper currency amounting to $60.

Defendant testified, denying that he burglarized the Travis home, explaining that a group of salesmen were in the general area, and asserting that he gave Mrs. Travis the pamphlet when he attempted to sell the product to her. He stated that another salesman, name unknown, gave him the pocket knife that day and that he went to the bathroom to flush marijuana down the toilet. He explained his possession of the coins by stating that he had sold a gold cross to a man driving down the road earlier that morning and that this man paid him with around $40 worth of loose change. During cross-examination, defendant testified he had worked two days for Austin Distributors.

During closing argument, defense counsel stated:

"He [defendant] might be guilty of working for a pretty shaky company that had a lot of shaky people working for it, but he's not charged with that.

I don't think you should find him guilty because he did work for a shaky company which obviously was a shaky company, obviously shaky people working for them."

In rebuttal, the State said:

"Defense counsel calls this alleged company a shaky company. I think he's doing kind of a service to a business that comes out with a pamphlet, takes six or seven people who are going to solicit for this cleaning liquid and within two or three months later, it's non-existent. Not only were these young people out in some remote part of the country where there are only a few houses to do a business, this business of cleaning, it's in the business of cleaning out the houses in Ogle County. That's the business they're engaged in."

Defendant did not object to this statement at trial.

At the sentencing hearing neither the State nor defendant offered any evidence in aggravation or mitigation. The presentence report revealed that defendant had spent most of his adolescent and young adult life in State-operated facilities and that he had an explosive personality. The report set forth defendant's history of delinquency, which included numerous convictions for various offenses including shoplifting, burglary, theft, retail theft and armed robbery. Following ...

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