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10/19/87 the People of the State of v. Paula Caplinger

October 19, 1987





514 N.E.2d 1221, 162 Ill. App. 3d 74, 113 Ill. Dec. 210 1987.IL.1558

Appeal from the Circuit Court of La Salle County; the Hon. Thomas R. Flood, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE HEIPLE delivered the opinion of the court. SCOTT and STOUDER, JJ., concur.


On May 10, 1986, the defendant and Peggy Bonnell, a codefendant, were in Pamida Discount Store. Store manager Rollie Streetor told clerk Sheila Sondergroth to watch the two women after he saw the defendant walking toward Bonnell with two audio cassette tapes in her hand.

Sondergroth testified that she watched the defendant walk up beside Bonnell and, using her right hand, set the tapes on a table. Bonnell immediately picked up the tapes with her right hand and shoved them under the left side of her shirt. Holding her purse tightly over the tapes, Bonnell left the store. The defendant walked to a different aisle and later made a purchase.

Bonnell testified for the State that the defendant handed a tape to her and warned her to be careful because a woman in the aisle might be watching. Bonnell was facing the defendant, who used her right hand to deliver the tape. Bonnell took the tape with her left hand, transferring it to her right hand before putting it under her shirt.

Bonnell claimed that after the defendant and Sondergroth walked away, she set the tape on a table and began leaving the store. Sondergroth stopped her before she had exited. Bonnell later told the police that the defendant had placed the two tapes under Bonnell's shirt. She admitted at trial, however, that the defendant had not done so. Bonnell also claimed at trial that she had not committed the offense. She stated that she had pleaded guilty only because she was afraid of having to serve more time.

Mendota police sergeant Dennis Franklin testified that in the defendant's statement given just after the incident, she had denied involvement in the offense. She claimed that she had given some tapes to Bonnell, but could not find her before the defendant went to the check-out.

On appeal, the defendant first argues that the State failed to prove her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of retail theft on an accountability theory. She argues that Bonnell's testimony was unbelievable and contradicted Sondergroth's testimony, which was insufficient by itself to establish guilt.

A person commits the offense of retail theft when he or she knowingly takes possession of, carries away, transfers or causes to be carried away or transferred, any merchandise displayed, held, stored or offered for sale in a retail mercantile establishment, with the intention of retaining such merchandise or with the intention of depriving the merchant permanently of the possession, use or benefit of such merchandise without paying the full retail value of such merchandise. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 16A-3(a).) In order to prove a defendant guilty on an accountability theory, the State must establish: (1) that the defendant solicited, aided, abetted, agreed, or attempted to aid another person in the planning or commission of the offense; (2) that the defendant's participation took place before or during the commission of the offense; and (3) that the defendant had the concurrent, specific intent to promote or facilitate the commission of the offense. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 5-2(c).

Once a jury has found a defendant guilty, on review all evidence must be considered in the light most favorable to the prosecution. (People v. Collins (1985), 106 Ill. 2d 237, 478 N.E.2d 267.) A reviewing court will not second-guess a jury's determinations regarding credibility, weight and conflicting evidence. (People v. Schultz (1981), 99 Ill. App. 3d 762, 425 N.E.2d 1267.) A jury's determination that a defendant is legally accountable for the criminal act of another will not be set aside unless the evidence is so improbable, unsatisfactory or unreasonable as to warrant a reasonable doubt of the accused's guilt. People v. Tate (1976), 63 Ill. 2d 105, 345 N.E.2d 480.

In the instant case, the defendant bases her argument on the contradictions between Sondergroth's and Bonnell's testimony. These include the positions of Bonnell and the defendant when the defendant passed the tapes to Bonnell, whether the defendant set the tapes down or handed them to Bonnell, and the hand with which Bonnell took the tapes. The defendant further asserts that Bonnell's credibility was impeached when she admitted that she had lied to the police; when she testified that she was innocent despite her guilty ...

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