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02/09/88 the People of the State of v. Paul Gnat

February 9, 1988

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

PAUL GNAT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, SECOND DISTRICT

519 N.E.2d 497, 166 Ill. App. 3d 107, 116 Ill. Dec. 605 1988.IL.158

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County; the Hon. Robert A. Nolan, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE INGLIS delivered the opinion of the court. WOODWARD, J., concurs. PRESIDING JUSTICE LINDBERG, Dissenting.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE INGLIS

Defendant, Paul Gnat, was convicted of unlawful delivery of between 10 and 30 grams of a substance containing cocaine. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 56 1/2, par. 1401(b)(2).) Defendant was sentenced to a 48-month term of probation conditioned upon service of periodic imprisonment for six months and was fined $1,000. Defendant appeals contending that his conviction must be reversed because it was based upon the inherently suspicious and uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice. We reverse.

The accomplice, Allan Loder, testified on behalf of the State. Loder testified that he arranged to sell 14 grams of cocaine for $1,000 to William Plahm, who turned out to be an agent for the Northeastern Metropolitan Enforcement Group . Loder stated that on December 7, 1984, he telephoned defendant, whom he had known for approximately 15 years, and told him that he had a buyer who wished to purchase 14 grams of cocaine. According to Loder's testimony, defendant told Loder to meet him at the Suburbanite Bowling Alley in Westmont between 3:30 and 4 o'clock that afternoon.

Loder met Plahm at a record store in Westmont that afternoon. They drove to the bowling alley in Loder's car and parked near the east entrance. Plahm and Loder sat in the lounge for approximately 20 minutes. Loder then got up and walked to the back of the bowling alley, where he saw defendant playing pool. Loder testified that defendant told him that the cocaine was wrapped in a handkerchief in the glove compartment of an unlocked car near the west entrance of the bowling alley.

Loder testified that he then went out the west entrance of the bowling alley and found the cocaine wrapped in a handkerchief where defendant told him it would be. Loder returned to the bowling alley, found Plahm, and suggested that they leave. They left through the east entrance and returned to Loder's car. Loder showed Plahm the cocaine, and Plahm told him that the money was in his car. Loder then drove Plahm back to the record store. Shortly after Plahm exited Loder's car, it was surrounded by agents who placed him under arrest.

Loder further testified that the State made no promises to him in exchange for his testimony against defendant. He later stated that he was told that if he testified truthfully against defendant, the State would recommend probation or minimal punishment. Loder also testified that he was told that the State's Attorney's office would probably recommend probation, but had not promised to do so. Loder admitted that he was a periodic cocaine and marijuana user at the time of the transaction with Plahm.

Plahm also testified for the State. Plahm testified that he met Loder at a record store at approximately 3:30 in the afternoon on December 7, 1984. Loder told Plahm that they would conduct the deal at a nearby bowling alley where "his guy, Paul" would be. They drove from the record store to the bowling alley in Loder's car. After they were in the bowling alley for approximately 10 minutes, Loder told Plahm that he saw defendant and walked off in a westerly direction. Plahm did not see where Loder went. Loder returned several minutes later and told Plahm to follow him. They returned to Loder's car, where Loder handed Plahm a blue and white handkerchief wrapped around a baggy containing cocaine. The parties stipulated that the baggy contained 10.1 grams of cocaine. Plahm further testified that he was to pay $1,000 for the cocaine. He told Loder that the money was in his car, and Loder drove him back to the record store. Plahm then gave a prearranged signal, and Loder was taken into custody.

A second MEG agent, William Golden, also testified on behalf of the State. Golden testified that he followed Loder's car from the record store to the bowling alley. He saw Loder and Plahm enter the bowling alley and followed them in on foot. Golden saw them sit in the lounge for a "minute or two" and then saw Loder get up and walk over to the poolroom at the other end of the building. Golden saw Loder speak to another individual in the poolroom whom he identified as defendant. Golden then saw Loder leave the bowling alley through a door located near the poolroom. Golden did not see where Loder went after Loder left the bowling alley. He did not follow Loder out of the bowling alley. He saw Loder re-enter the building through the door near the poolroom and return to the lounge area. He then observed Loder and Plahm leave the building and go to Loder's car. Golden further testified that following Loder's arrest he returned to the bowling alley where defendant was arrested. Plahm testified that after his arrest, defendant stated that he was at the bowling alley to buy drugs from Loder.

At the Conclusion of the bench trial, the court acknowledged the dubious nature of Loder's testimony identifying defendant as the supplier of the cocaine and noted that corroboration was therefore required. The court found corroboration in Plahm's testimony that Loder wanted to complete the transaction at the bowling alley where "his guy, Paul" would be. Defendant brought this appeal following his conviction.

Defendant contends that his conviction must be reversed because it is based on the inherently suspicious and uncorroborated testimony of an accomplice who was an acknowledged drug user at the time of the offense and ...


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