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People v. Futia

OPINION FILED JULY 14, 1983.

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

v.

JAMES L. FUTIA, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon. Robert J. Steigmann, Judge, presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE WEBBER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant was charged by indictment in the circuit court of Champaign County with the offense of forgery in violation of section 17-3 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 17-3). He was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to an extended term of nine years' imprisonment.

On appeal he raised three issues: (1) reasonable doubt, (2) improper cross-examination, and (3) error in not advising him of the possibility of treatment under the Dangerous Drug Abuse Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 91 1/2, par. 120.1 et seq.)

The facts, briefly summarized, indicated that on July 14, 1982, defendant in the company of Kayrene Wright went in Wright's car to a drive-up facility of the Champaign County Bank and Trust Company and presented for payment a check purportedly made by Helen J. Reinbold with Teresa Hibler as payee. The endorsement on the instrument purports to be that of Hibler together with her address and account number. The teller to whom the check was presented became suspicious because both the check and the deposit slip were improperly filled out. She then called her supervisor and also made a note of the license number of the car on the check. The car was registered to Kayrene Wright. The teller, at the direction of her supervisor, placed a call to the First Federal of Champaign, the drawee bank. While this was going on, defendant asked over the intercommunication system what was taking so long, and then drove away before the transaction could be completed. The supervisor then called the police and turned the check over to them.

Reinbold, the purported maker of the check, testified that her purse containing her checkbook had been taken from her grocery cart in a market on July 3. She identified the check in question as being one from her checkbook and stated that she did not sign it nor authorize anyone else to do so. She further stated that on July 7 she received a phone call from the defendant who said he had obtained her wallet from her purse and would return it to her. She agreed to meet him and did so; he returned her wallet but not her checkbook, purse, or keys.

Hibler, the purported payee, testified that she knew the defendant and had previously written a check to him; that the address in the endorsement of the check in question, 27 Rowena, was her former address; and that her new address, 601 Poplar, was known to the defendant since he had been there.

Urbana police officer Lockard testified that he received the check from the bank and forwarded it, together with the deposit slip and a set of defendant's fingerprints, to the FBI. He further stated that he had for several weeks prior to trial attempted to locate Kayrene Wright, defendant's companion, but was unable to do so.

A fingerprint expert from the FBI testified that the check contained four identifiable prints belonging to the defendant. These were found on the front of the instrument, near a crease in the middle. She found no prints belonging to Wright.

Defendant testified and attempted to lay all the blame on Kayrene Wright, claiming in substance that he was an innocent dupe. He stated that he had seen Reinbold's purse and contents at a friend's house and undertook to return it to her; that he knew Hibler lived on Poplar; and that she had written him a check earlier in June or July. He claimed that on the date of the offense, July 14, he was driving Wright's car in her company and she asked him to go to the bank to cash a check for her; that they did go to the bank and she handed him a folded check which he put into the pneumatic tube at the drive-in without looking at it; and that he drove away on her direction.

In cross-examination of the defendant, the State commenced to delve into his activities with Wright prior to going to the bank. There was objection and a conference in chambers was held on the matter. At that conference it was represented that defendant was accompanying Wright while she was "boosting clothes." It was stipulated that this phrase meant shoplifting. Defendant objected on the basis of prejudice, i.e., other crimes, while the State maintained that the probative value outweighed the prejudice, i.e., other crimes, while the State maintained that the probative value outweighed the prejudice, i.e., defendant knew Wright to be a dishonest and untrustworthy person and that this bore on his knowledge and intent when he presented the check for payment. The trial court overruled the objections and the defendant testified before the jury that he had been driving around to several stores before going to the bank and that at one store she had sent him in to return some clothing which he later found out were stolen and the price tags changed, apparently the origin of the term "boosted."

• 1 Defendant's principal argument on the reasonable doubt issue is that the entire case against him was circumstantial and therefore any doubt should be resolved in favor of innocence. He further maintains that the theory of innocence is underpinned by his explanation of events. We do not agree. As to his explanation, the jury was not required to believe it. (People v. Malmenato (1958), 14 Ill.2d 52, 150 N.E.2d 806.) He was in possession of Reinbold's purse more than a week before the offense; he knew Hibler and was aware of her address and account number; his flight was evidence of his consciousness of guilt. People v. Eston (1977), 49 Ill. App.3d 747, 364 N.E.2d 609.

Interestingly, defendant's fingerprints span the fold on the check, although he claimed to have handled it only in a folded condition. It would be physically impossible to make such prints unless the check were lying flat.

While there is no direct evidence that defendant made the instrument or knew it was forged, the evidence, taken as a whole, does not support his claim of nonparticipation. We find no basis for interfering with the verdict of the jury.

• 2, 3 On the matter of the cross-examination: the parties argued the matter to the trial court and that court ruled on the basis of potential prejudice versus probative value. While we agree with the result, we find a firmer basis for the court's ruling. On direct examination, the defendant had testified to a conversation with Officer Lockard but limited it to what had happened to the prior check given to him by Teresa Hibler, what he had told Lockard about the possibility of Wright's having written the ...


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