APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, THIRD DIVISION
524 N.E.2d 1050, 170 Ill. App. 3d 1083, 121 Ill. Dec. 2 1988.IL.771
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Kenneth L. Gillis, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE FREEMAN delivered the opinion of the court. WHITE, P.J., and McNAMARA, J., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE FREEMAN
The defendant, Angel Ortiz, was convicted in a bench trial of theft and sentenced to four years in prison. Defendant appeals on the ground that the State failed to establish the elements of the offense. Defendant also argues that the trial court applied an improper standard in finding him guilty.
Arthur Carlson lived in an apartment at 1741 North Orleans, located directly behind Graft's apartment. He testified that on the morning of May 13, 1986, he was disturbed by a repeated knocking at his front door. The knocking stopped, and a few minutes later Carlson heard someone knocking at the apartment across from his and then at the apartment next to his. This knocking stopped and after a few minutes, Carlson heard someone knocking at the back door of his apartment, then at the back door of the neighboring apartment, and then again at his back door. After the knocking stopped Carlson went outside and noticed an unfamiliar car parked in front of his building. Carlson returned to his apartment and from his window he watched the car, which he described as a Chevy Nova, light blue with a primer and with a chain around the trunk. After a few minutes, he observed an individual get into the car, back the car down a one-way street, and stop in the alley in back of his building. Carlson further testified that at this point, the angle of his window allowed him to see only from the middle of the car to the passenger side. Carlson heard the car door slam and after a few minutes he saw the individual return with stereo equipment and a VCR. Carlson stated that the individual walked to the passenger side of the car and placed the items in the backseat. He stated that he also saw a second individual loading items into the other side of the car, but he could only see the arm of this second person. As he watched, Carlson telephoned the police and reported a burglary in progress, giving a description of the car and its license plate number. The car drove away while Carlson was on the telephone, and he testified that when it drove past his window, he was able to observe the second individual. Carlson could not positively identify this individual, but he stated that defendant resembled the person he saw.
Officer Mesikapp of the Chicago police department testified that after receiving a description of the car and its license plate number, he proceeded to the area of Clybourn and North Avenues, where he observed the car travelling westbound on North Avenue. The car was stopped, and when Mesikapp approached it, he noticed several items in the backseat. Defendant and Guillermo Toro, the driver, were placed under arrest and taken to the 18th District police station.
Defendant, who had two prior convictions for burglary and attempted burglary, testified in his own behalf. He stated that on May 13 he saw Toro near North Avenue and asked him if he would drive him home. Toro agreed but stated that first he had to pick up something. Defendant testified that Toro drove around awhile and then stopped. Toro left the car, walked between two buildings, returned approximately 10 minutes later, backed the car up, and then stopped again. Defendant stated that he remained in the car while Toro entered a building. Toro made three trips to the building and each time he returned carrying video and stereo equipment, which he placed in the passenger side of the car. Defendant stated that Toro told him that he had stored the items in the building. Defendant further stated that he never physically left the car and that he remained in the front passenger seat the entire time, except when he leaned out to allow Toro to put a television set into the car.
The court found defendant not guilty of burglary, holding that there was no evidence that defendant ever entered Grafft's apartment. However, the court found that defendant was guilty of theft. In entering its judgment the court stated:
"A person is guilty of the charge of theft when they either know or under the circumstances would reasonably believe that the property involved was stolen. See People versus Farella, 79 Illinois Appellate 3rd, 1980."
The court also stated that it believed Officer Mesikapp's testimony and the testimony of Arthur Carlson, but that it did not believe defendant's testimony and did not believe that defendant did not help Toro with the property.
Defendant was charged with theft under section 16-1(a)(1) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 16-1(a)(1)). This section provides that a person commits theft when he knowingly obtains or exerts unauthorized control over property of the owner with the intent to deprive the owner permanently of the use or benefit of the property. In his appeal, defendant argues that the State failed to prove that he exerted unauthorized control over the property or that he intended to deprive its owner of its use or benefit.
Defendant correctly argues that mere presence is insufficient to establish accountability for another's criminal acts. (See People v. Banks (1975), 28 Ill. App. 3d 784, 329 N.E.2d 504.) Defendant also points out that the trial court found that he was not accountable for the burglary of Grafft's apartment and claims that because there was no evidence that he exerted control over Grafft's property he cannot be held accountable for theft merely because of his presence in the car. This argument ignores both the testimony of Carlson that there ...