Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Jack G.
Stein, Judge, presiding.
PRESIDING JUSTICE LINN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Following a bench trial in the circuit court of Cook County, defendant was found guilty of possession of a stolen motor vehicle (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 4-103(a)(1)) and placed on non-reporting probation for one year. Defendant now appeals from this judgment, contending that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had knowledge that the automobile was stolen or that someone else stole the vehicle.
The record shows that defendant was charged by indictment with the theft of a 1983 BMW belonging to Robert Schmidt (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. 16-1(a)(1)) and with possession of that vehicle knowing it to have been stolen (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 95 1/2, par. 4-103(a)(1)). At trial, Schmidt testified that he and his father had purchased a black 1983 BMW in South Dakota. About 8:30 p.m. on June 26, 1984, he parked the car bearing South Dakota license plates in the 1900 block of North Stockton Drive in Chicago, and when he returned to that location the following morning the car was missing. Schmidt reported the apparent theft to police and supplied them with identifying marks and the vehicle's identification number.
On September 1, 1984, Schmidt was riding an elevated train when he thought he saw his car parked in the back of General Auto Rebuilders on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago where in April 1984 he had the vehicle repaired. He and a friend went and inspected the car that had New Jersey license plates on it and observed some of the distinguishing marks of his automobile. He then left to get a camera. When he returned, he saw defendant enter the car and put on a pair of sunglasses which Schmidt thought he had left in the car before it was taken.
Schmidt and his friend followed defendant to an apartment building on Barry Avenue where defendant got out, spent about 10 minutes and then got back into the car. At that point, Schmidt called the police and next saw his car three days later at the police station. There he observed that the radio was missing and that the rear vent window had been tampered with.
Detective James Sesso testified that on September 4, 1984, he went to the General Auto Rebuilders shop on North Lincoln Avenue with Detectives Wheeler and Brosner. When he got to the rear of that location, he observed a black 1983 BMW parked in the lot bearing a New Jersey license plate and an Illinois validation sticker attached to it; the ends of the sticker were cut off eliminating the word "Illinois" and the prefix. He also observed the vehicle identification number affixed to the dashboard, and after placing this number in his mobile computer, he initiated a surveillance on the automobile.
About 1 p.m., he observed defendant enter the vehicle and drive off. Sesso stopped him a short distance away, identified himself and informed him that he was under arrest for possessing a stolen motor vehicle. Defendant told him that he was the owner of a nearby body shop and that a "white guy" had brought the vehicle in to have some spraywork done on the underside and on the spoiler on the front end; but, when the officer looked under the vehicle, he did not see any area where work was needed.
Defendant then told him that he had papers for the vehicle at the shop, and they proceeded to defendant's office where defendant searched for them for about 20 minutes. However, he was unable to produce any papers or invoices at that time and did not produce any subsequently. Defendant told him that the person, who had brought the car to him, wanted some paint work done under the front end and other work done on the spoiler, but defendant did not describe this person with any specificity, name him or provide the officer with the address or telephone number of this person. He just stated that a male caucasian had brought the car to the shop about 10 days before.
While he was at the shop, the officer also talked to defendant's brother, Veljko Mijoskov, in the presence of defendant and Detective Wheeler. Defendant's brother said that a black man had brought the vehicle in from Joe Perillo BMW, a car dealer, to have the rear-window glass changed.
After the State rested its case in chief, the court entered a directed finding on the first count of the indictment charging defendant with theft. The defense then presented the testimony of Clarence Hodges, an employee of Joe Perillo BMW, who testified that he knew defendant from their business dealings. Hodges stated that his employer referred about 25 vehicles a month to General Auto Rebuilders and sometimes sent their customers to the shop directly. In the latter part of August 1984, he had occasion to refer the "owner" of a late-model BMW to General Auto Rebuilders. The driver of that vehicle was a black man about 28 years of age, who was approximately six feet tall and weighed 225 pounds. When this man brought the car in, he stated that the right rear quarter glass of the vehicle was broken out as a result of a theft, a condition the witness described as a standard break-in. The man indicated that he wished to wait for the vehicle to be repaired, and Hodges told him that he could not handle it at that time.
Veljko Mijoskov testified that he is the co-owner of General Auto Rebuilders and does body work and painting there. When the officers came to the shop and inquired about the BMW, he told them that his brother had repaired the right quarter window with one obtained from Perillo BMW. A paid statement was later submitted for it along with other items on the invoice. The State objected to evidence of the invoice noting that it was prepared three days after the defendant's arrest. The court found that it was not material and instructed counsel to proceed. During cross-examination the witness stated that he was not present when the car arrived, that he did not know anything about the person who brought it in other than what his brother had told him, and that they had possession of the car for about 10 days before police arrived.
Defendant testified that he lives at 512 West Barry and by trade is an auto mechanic and co-owner of General Auto Rebuilders located on North Lincoln Avenue. He stated that he and his brother have been in business at that address for seven years and have done work for several auto dealers in the area; they currently are called upon by Perillo BMW. Defendant recalled that a black late-model BMW was brought into the shop in August by a black man who was about 30 years of age and who was six feet tall and weighed about 200 pounds. The person told him that he had been referred to the shop by Joe Perillo BMW, asked to have the window fixed and inquired about having some other work done on the car. Defendant gave him an estimate on the window but told him that he would have to call his brother about the other work at a later time. The man was in the shop for about 15 minutes, and during this time defendant did not ascertain his name, address or telephone number.
Defendant repaired the quarter glass which was broken and prepared an invoice dated for August 1984; he intended to write in the specific day when the person picked up the car. The vehicle was never claimed, however, and defendant used it, as he did other autos in the shop. When he was stopped by a police officer on September 4, 1984, he was told that the auto was stolen. He explained to the officer that he had worked on the vehicle and that the owner inquired about having other work done, but when the officer was in the shop he could not find the invoice for the auto because he had misplaced it with the estimate book. A member of his family subsequently found it, and he took it to court to present to the prosecutor. Defendant acknowledged that he had driven the car to the bank on September 1 after stopping at his apartment, and also stated that he was wearing his own sunglasses that day and further recalled that the car did not have a radio in it.
Constantine Kangles, defendant's appellate counsel, testified that he has known defendant for about 12 years, and attested to defendant's good reputation ...