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People v. Christiansen





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Will County; the Hon. Angelo F. Pistilli, Judge, presiding. JUSTICE HEIPLE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The defendant was found guilty of three counts of forgery and one count of attempted theft under an accountability theory. On appeal he contends that: (1) he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court erred in allowing a rebuttal witness to testify; (3) the trial court erred in refusing to give paragraph two of the circumstantial evidence instruction; (4) the trial court erred in giving the instruction on accountability; (5) certain prosecutorial misconduct denied him his right to a fair trial; and (6) the trial court erred in allowing cross-examination of the defendant concerning his occupational and educational background.

It is undisputed that the defendant's companion, George Brigham, forged the name of Joseph T. Holloway upon a retail installment contract, a watercraft application, and a title registration form. The following pertinent evidence was adduced at trial on the events preceding the forgery of these documents.

The State presented the testimony of Beverly Koerner (Beverly), former secretary-treasurer of All-Parts Motor, Inc., which does business as J & B Marine. Beverly testified that on January 6, 1984, the defendant and George Brigham came to her booth at the boat show held at McCormick Place. Brigham identified himself as "Joe" and referred to the defendant as "Bob." Brigham said he was going to buy a boat but did not know which one yet. Thereafter, the two men left.

On Saturday, January 7, 1984, the two men returned to the boat show. At that time, Brigham stated that they were not going to file a joint application for credit but that he ("Joe") would fill out the credit application in his name. The two men returned to the boat show again on Sunday morning, January 8, 1984. At that time, Brigham indicated that they wanted to buy a boat. However, the boat they wished to purchase was not at the Chicago Boat Show but was back at the company boat shop in Joliet. The price of the boat was also discussed. Thereafter, Beverly spoke to "Joe" and "Bob" and said that they would have to get their credit application approved by the Bank of Waukegan which had a booth at the boat show. The two men left but returned and stated that no one was at the Bank of Waukegan booth. The men indicated that they were in a hurry and had to leave, that they wanted the application, and they would fill it out themselves and bring it back. Beverly gave them an application and said to the defendant, "Who are you, the silent partner?" The defendant responded Yes, and laughed.

Later that day, at approximately 5:45 p.m., the two men returned to the boat show. Brigham handed Beverly the completed credit application. Brigham also gave Beverly a deposit of $50. Brigham inquired whether the men could pick up the boat on Wednesday. Beverly indicated that the boat package would be ready on Wednesday, provided that the bank approved the credit application. Brigham then said that he was going to be out of town, and that Bob (referring to the defendant) would call on Monday to find out if the bank had approved the loan. Beverly testified that the defendant showed his agreement to this arrangement.

Beverly testified that she received a phone call from "Bob," and he inquired whether the credit had been approved. The following day, Tuesday, "Bob" called back again to find out the status of the credit application. The caller spoke to Beverly's husband, John. Later that afternoon, on Tuesday, Beverly received another phone call from "Bob." He stated that he would like to go the Bank of Waukegan and sign the paper there and pick up the check. However, Beverly informed him that the check would have to be sent down by special carrier. Beverly identified the person who spoke on the phone as the defendant, Richard Christiansen.

The next day, January 11, 1984, "Bob" called again and inquired whether everything was ready. Beverly informed the caller that everything would be ready after 3 p.m. That afternoon, Beverly received another phone call from "Bob." He wanted to know directions how to get to the boat dealership. Again, Beverly identified the voice as being that of the defendant. After the defendant and George Brigham arrived at the store, Brigham, purporting to be Joe Holloway, signed a retail installment contract, a watercraft application, and an application for registration pertaining to the trailer. At that time, the defendant was standing at the counter beside Brigham. According to Beverly, the defendant was situated so that he could see what was occurring. Thereafter, the men was arrested.

On cross-examination, Beverly explained that she could identify the voice of the person on the telephone as the defendant because the defendant had talked to Brigham at their store. On cross-examination, Beverly stated that the defendant was in a position to see the documents as Brigham signed them.

John Koerner (John), Beverly's ex-husband, former president of All-Parts Motor, Inc., also testified. His testimony substantiated much of his ex-wife's testimony. John testified that Brigham set the completed credit application on the table, in a readable position, in a location where the defendant could easily see the application right in front of him. John also testified that he received a phone call from a person who identified himself as Bob Hegman. John testified that the following day he received another phone call from the same caller. The caller inquired when the boat would be ready to be picked up. The caller stated that Joe was running late and that he was going to pick him up at the train depot. John identified the caller as the defendant. John testified that there were additional phone calls that afternoon. He testified that the defendant called him asking for directions. John then testified as to the men's conduct at the boat dealership, including Brigham's signing of the documents.

The State also called Debra Miklic, a part-time employee of J & B Marine. Miklic testified as to events which she observed at the boat show. On cross-examination, Miklic testified that while Brigham and Beverly discussed the purchase of the boat, the defendant was present and nodded his head.

The defendant, Richard Christiansen, testified on his own behalf. Defendant testified that he had indicated that he was Brigham's silent partner. The defendant denied seeing the documents which Brigham gave to Beverly. The defendant also denied any knowledge of the use of false names. The defendant testified that he stood four to six feet from the counter where Brigham forged the documents. The defendant testified that the State's exhibits appeared to be similar in size and shape to the documents signed by Brigham. The defendant also testified that he asked the police officer, who was searching him, why he was being arrested and was informed he would find out when he got to police headquarters.

During rebuttal, the State presented Anthony Hernandez, staff investigator for the Will County sheriff's department. Hernandez personally took custody of the defendant. Hernandez testified that he was the officer who searched the defendant and handcuffed him. Hernandez testified that at no time did the defendant speak to him. John also testified that there was no conversation between the arresting officer and the defendant.

Section 17-3 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 38, par. ...

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