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09/25/87 the People of the State of v. Pedro Lebron

September 25, 1987





515 N.E.2d 312, 161 Ill. App. 3d 815, 113 Ill. Dec. 503

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. William Cousins, Judge, presiding. 1987.IL.1435


JUSTICE LORENZ delivered the opinion of the court. SULLIVAN, P.J., and MURRAY, J., concur.


Defendant, Pedro Lebron, and his codefendant, Miguel Martinez, *fn1 were charged with possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1401(a)(2)). They filed motions to quash their arrest and to suppress evidence seized which were denied after an evidentiary hearing. Following a bench trial, defendant was convicted as charged and sentenced to seven years' incarceration. On appeal he urges the following: (1) the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion to suppress evidence because the arresting police officers lacked a reasonable articulable suspicion to justify his detention; (2) the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence because there was no probable cause; and (3) his conviction for possession of a controlled substance must be reversed because the State failed to prove he had knowledge of the contents of the tote bag that he had handed to a fellow passenger also departing a Florida flight.

We affirm.

The following facts were adduced at the hearing of defendant's motion to quash the arrest and suppress the evidence. On September 26, 1984, Officer Rosemary Burzinski, who was detailed to the Drug Enforcement Administration Chicago Police Department Task Force, and Special Agent Mike Werico were on duty at O'Hare International Airport. Officer Burzinski had had this assignment for approximately five years. At 3:30 p.m. on this date, the officers were conducting surveillance at Gate D-9A, where a nonstop Eastern Airlines flight was arriving from Miami.

Officer Burzinski first saw defendant Lebron when he left the flight with a brown shoulder bag and an off-white tote bag. Shortly thereafter defendant Martinez and Joyce Lozada also got off the plane. After about a minute, defendant Martinez walked up to Lebron, Lebron handed Martinez the white bag and Lebron proceeded alone down the concourse. Martinez then proceeded to walk down the concourse with Lozada, about 10 to 30 feet behind Lebron. During this 5- to 10-minute walk, Officer Burzinski testified that she saw Lebron turn and look behind him three times. She also observed that every time Lebron looked back, Martinez and Lozada parted, and then when he looked forward, they came together.

When Lebron reached the main terminal he went into the bathroom. Officer Burzinski then met and had a brief conversation with Officer Fulkerson of the DEA. While Burzinski continued surveillance of Martinez and Lozada, Fulkerson waited outside the men's room for Lebron. When Lebron left the men's room, Fulkerson followed him.

At this time Martinez and Lozada consented to Burzinski's search of their luggage. In the bottom of the white bag, the officer felt a hard object wrapped in newspaper. As she removed the object from the bag she observed the wrapping was partially torn off, disclosing a plastic bag containing a white powdery substance. It was later stipulated that the substance was cocaine and had a gross weight of 596.08 grams.

Officer Fulkerson continued to observe Lebron. After Lebron had exited the building, Fulkerson approached Lebron and asked to speak with him. Lebron agreed to speak with the officer. Fulkerson asked Lebron if he could see some form of identification and Lebron produced a driver's license in the name of Pedro Lebron. When Lebron was asked to produce an airline ticket, he produced one in the name of Jesse Rivera. When asked about the name discrepancy, defendant Lebron looked at the ticket and stated that Eastern Airlines must have made a mistake. Lebron then told the officer that he did not know Martinez or Lozada and stated that he had been on vacation for a few days in Florida. When asked why he had given the white tote bag to Martinez, Lebron did not reply.

After a brief conversation with Officer Fulkerson regarding the substance found in the tote bag, Officer Burzinski placed Martinez and Lozada under arrest. As requested, Lebron, at that time, accompanied Fulkerson to the DEA office after being told an investigation was being conducted. Inside the DEA office, Burzinski advised Fulkerson that cocaine had been found inside the tote bag. Lebron was then placed under arrest. A search of Lebron's brown shoulder bag then took place. Two airline tickets were found, one for the previous week in the name of Lebron and another in the name of Juan Perez.

The defense then rested on its motion to quash the arrest and suppress the evidence in this case. The trial court denied defendant's motion. In so holding the court found that Lebron's brief possession of the bag when he got off the plane from a "source city," coupled with the exchange of ...

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