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People v. Kaludis





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James J. Heyda, Judge, presiding.


The defendant, Michael P. Kaludis, was indicted along with two other individuals on two counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance in violation of section 401 of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1401). One count alleged that the defendant and one co-defendant delivered more than 30 grams of a substance containing methaqualone, and the other count alleged that the defendant and the other co-defendant delivered less than 10 grams of a substance containing cocaine. The defendant was found guilty on both counts after a jury trial, but his co-defendants were acquitted after being tried by the court. The defendant was sentenced to serve concurrent terms of imprisonment: seven years for the methaqualone offense and three years for the cocaine offense.

The defendant raised the following contentions on appeal: (1) the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the methaqualone weighed more than 30 grams; and (2) the undercover police officer engaged in such outrageous conduct that the defendant's right to due process was violated.

The series of events leading up to the defendant's conviction began in February 1983 when a confidential informant introduced undercover police officer, Rafael Tovar, to Susan Baumgaerdner as "Bob Garcia." Thereafter, Baumgaerdner telephoned Tovar on February 26, 1983, and inquired as to whether he was interested in purchasing some cocaine from an individual identified as Mike. Tovar said that he was, and a meeting was scheduled for 4 p.m. that afternoon at Baumgaerdner's apartment. When Tovar arrived at the apartment at 4 p.m., Baumgaerdner informed him that Mike had not yet arrived. The defendant, Michael Kaludis, arrived at the apartment five minutes later accompanied by another individual introduced as Scott Martin. Tovar then purchased one gram of white powder purported to be cocaine from the defendant for $100. Baumgaerdner testified that, after Kaludis and Martin departed, Tovar gave her some cocaine which she immediately snorted. She testified that Tovar began to make sexual advances and the two eventually engaged in sexual intercourse. However, Tovar denied ever giving Baumgaerdner drugs or having any sexual contact with her. After leaving Baumgaerdner's apartment, Tovar conducted a field test on the white powder which indicated the possible presence of cocaine.

Baumgaerdner telephoned Tovar again on March 2, 1983, and asked whether he was interested in purchasing more cocaine. Tovar said that he was, and he met the defendant at Baumgaerdner's apartment and purchased two grams of white powder purported to be cocaine from the defendant for $200. The result of a subsequent field test indicated the possible presence of cocaine.

On May 23, 1983, Baumgaerdner called Tovar again, and the two individuals drove to a location in Skokie to purchase cocaine from a source other than the defendant. After this transaction, Tovar placed Baumgaerdner under arrest and transported her to the Des Plaines police station. At the station, Tovar persuaded Baumgaerdner to arrange one more purchase from Kaludis. She telephoned the defendant and arranged a meeting for that evening.

Tovar arrived at Kaludis' residence in Mount Prospect at approximately 8:30 p.m. on the evening of May 23, 1983. The defendant exited his house, and the two proceeded to drive to a location in Glenview. Along the way, Kaludis inquired as to whether Tovar was also interested in purchasing some methaqualone tablets. Kaludis said that one of the people in Glenview had some for sale, and the price was $125 for 50 tablets. Tovar said yes; he would buy 100 tablets. When they arrived at the Glenview address, Kaludis exited Tovar's automobile and entered the residence. Kaludis reappeared shortly and handed Tovar a paper packet containing approximately one-half a gram of white powder purported to be cocaine, and Tovar gave Kaludis $50 which Kaludis took back into the house. Kaludis returned and told Tovar that the methaqualone tablets were not there, but the occupant was going to get them and would return within 30 minutes. Tovar and Kaludis then drove to a tavern in Glenview where they ordered drinks and waited. They returned to the house; Kaludis went inside; he returned to the automobile and gave Tovar a bag containing approximately 100 tablets. While the agreed-upon price was $250, for some undisclosed reason, Tovar that another 300 methaqualone tablets were available for purchase. However, the money was required up front, and Kaludis said he would bring the tablets out afterwards. Tovar refused to do business in that manner, and when Kaludis attempted to take the money for the 100 tablets into the house, Tovar placed him under arrest. Kaludis was indicted on the basis of these transactions which occurred on May 23, 1983.

At trial, the State called Paul Titus, a forensic chemist employed by the Department of Law Enforcement, to testify concerning the scientific procedures he used to identify the substances delivered by the defendant on May 23. Titus testified that he determined the weight of the approximately 100 tablets to be 80.8 grams and the weight of the white powder to be 0.2 gram. He also said he performed a tablet-ballistics test which, in essence, is a visual examination of all the tablets, and this visual examination revealed that all tablets exhibited the same physical characteristics. The tablets were all the same size, diameter, roundness, and thickness. The tablets also were all off-white in color and exhibited the same hardness. All tablets had the same markings, "Lemmon 714," which were markings used by a particular pharmaceutical company. However, it was Titus' opinion, after examining the tablets, that the tablets were "counterfeit." By counterfeit, Titus explained that he meant that the tablets were not manufactured by the Lemmon Company whose markings appeared on the tablets. He further noted that the tablets exhibited identical lettering characteristics, bevelling and scoring. Based upon his examination, Titus formed an opinion that all the tablets were manufactured on the same tablet press with the same set of dies.

Titus then performed six color tests on three randomly selected tablets. The results of the color tests indicated the possible presence of methaqualone. Titus next performed a thin-layer chromatography test on another three tablets. The results also indicated the possible presence of methaqualone.

Titus testified that he then attempted to extract a purified form of methaqualone from three more randomly selected tablets. The extraction process yielded a residue upon which Titus conducted gas-chromatographic and mass-spectrographic analyses. The results of this final procedure conclusively indicated the presence of methaqualone in the material analyzed. Based upon the results of his entire testing procedure, Titus opined that all 100 tablets contained methaqualone. Titus admitted that some counterfeit tablets may not contain a controlled substance or may contain different controlled substances. However, he stated that he had never experienced a situation where counterfeit tablets came in one bag, were found to be alike pursuant to a tablet-ballistics test, and contained different controlled substances.

Titus performed a similar series of nonconclusive tests and one conclusive test on randomly selected samples of the white powder alleged to be cocaine, which had also been purchased on May 23, 1983. He subjected the sample he had collected to infrared spectrographic analysis, and the results conclusively indicated the presence of cocaine in the material tested. Titus further determined that the cocaine was in its naturally occurring state, i.e., it was not synthetically produced. Based on these tests and their results, Titus opined that the entire packet of white powder contained cocaine.

The defense presented its own expert witness, Vel Vasan, who, at the time of trial, was working as an attorney and had not worked in the field of forensic chemistry for 10 years. Vasan examined Titus' testing procedures and testimony. Vasan testified that the procedure followed by Titus only proved with certainty that one tablet contained methaqualone. Titus could not state, Vasan contended, with any reasonable degree of scientific certainty that all 100 tablets were in fact methaqualone. Vasan also testified that the conclusive procedure utilized by Titus, the gas-chromatographic and mass-spectrographic analyses, did not require the total destruction of the tablets tested, and that a conclusive determination could be performed on five tablets in 10 to 15 minutes.

At the conclusion of the trial, the jury found the defendant guilty on both counts. The trial judge denied defendant's motion for a new trial and sentenced the defendant as indicated above. This appeal followed.

Initially, the defendant contends that his conviction for delivery of more than 30 grams of a substance containing methaqualone was fundamentally unfair and violated his right to due process. He claims that the State failed to prove an essential element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, i.e., that the methaqualone weighed more than 30 grams. The essence of the defendant's argument is that the testing procedures employed by the State's expert, while admittedly adequate in other situations, were inadequate when dealing with counterfeit substances which may possibly vary in content. Kaludis claims that evidence based upon such improper procedures results in evidence based upon mere speculation and cannot support the jury's guilty verdict. Additionally, the defendant asserts that improper remarks made by the prosecutor during rebuttal argument about the defendant's failure to test the tablets precluded the jury from returning a guilty verdict on the lesser included offense ...

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