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02/27/89 the People of the State of v. Eric Williams

February 27, 1989

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

ERIC WILLIAMS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIRST DIVISION

535 N.E.2d 993, 180 Ill. App. 3d 294, 129 Ill. Dec. 228 1989.IL.248

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur J. Cieslik, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE QUINLAN delivered the opinion of the court. BUCKLEY and O'CONNOR, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE QUINLAN

On March 23, 1984, the defendant, Eric Williams, was charged with robbery, home invasion, aggravated battery, and unlawful restraint. Prior to trial, the charge of unlawful restraint was entered as nolle prosequi. The defendant was tried before a jury in the circuit court of Cook County, and on June 11, 1986, the jury found him guilty of the charges of robbery, home invasion, and aggravated battery. Judgment was entered on the jury verdict, and the aggravated battery and robbery convictions were merged into the home invasion conviction. The trial Judge then sentenced the defendant to 11 years' incarceration for home invasion. The defendant appeals his convictions and his sentence.

The facts of the case, presented at trial, are as follows. On the evening of February 21, 1984, the victim, James Smith, a retiree who was approximately 70 years old, testified that he went to a tavern, had a shot and a beer, socialized with some other retirees, and then returned home to his apartment at 4659 South Drexel in Chicago, Illinois. When he arrived at his apartment, he unlocked the gates in front of his door and closed the gates, but apparently forgot to relock the gates. At approximately 10 p.m., Smith was watching television in the living room of his apartment, when the front door to his apartment was kicked open. Smith testified that two men burst into his apartment and that he recognized the two men as men who had recently moved into his apartment building. He stated that he had seen both men every day for approximately two months prior to that date. In court, he identified one of the men as the defendant, Eric Williams, and explained that the defendant lived in an apartment on his floor with a woman, Beatrice Topps. He said that the other man, later identified as Selby, also lived in his building, but on a different floor.

Smith testified that after the two men broke in, he reached for a knife on his table, but the defendant kicked it away. At that point, the defendant and Selby threw him to the floor and attempted to cover his face. The two then stripped Smith and tied him up with a telephone cord. The defendant was, he stated, physically more aggressive towards him than Selby. Smith said that the defendant then went through his pockets, took his wallet, $90 in cash, and his credit cards. Both men, he stated, had guns which they held to his head, and the defendant told Smith that he would blow his head off if he screamed. Both men searched the apartment for about 15 minutes, and then left, while Smith remained tied up on the floor.

Approximately 15 minutes after the defendant and Selby left Smith's apartment, they returned. Upon their return, they carried Smith to his bedroom, tied him to his bed, and gagged him. Again they threatened to blow his head off if he made any commotion. They searched the apartment a second time for about 15 minutes and then left the apartment, leaving Smith tied to the bed and gagged. Sometime later, Smith stated, they returned a third time and, at that time, he believed they stole his television. The men again left, and Smith remained tied to the bed and gagged. Smith was subsequently discovered at approximately 11 a.m. the next day when a neighbor heard Smith, who had, by this time, gotten the gag out of his mouth, yelling for help. The police were called and Smith was released.

While the police were preparing to take Smith to the hospital, Smith received a phone call from an employee of a Carson Pirie Scott store who asked Smith if he had given anyone authority to use his credit cards. Smith told the caller that the cards were stolen and told the police who had called. The police then took Smith to the hospital.

In addition to Smith's testimony, the State also presented the testimony of a Carson Pirie Scott employee, Ms. Gwendolyn Tiller, who worked in the store's Evergreen Park location. Ms. Tiller stated that on February 22, 1984, she was notified that the defendant was trying to use a stolen Visa credit card in the name of James Smith. She said that when she questioned the defendant, he told her that he was James Smith and that he lived at 4851 South Champlain. The man also agreed to accompany her to the store office. She then confiscated Smith's Visa card, and although the man had said he would go with her to the office, he gave his keys to the woman who was with him and ran out of the store. Tiller and another security guard chased after him as he ran out of the store and down the street. An Evergreen Park police officer, John Eisenbis, who was on the street, saw the chase and ultimately apprehended the defendant. After Officer Eisenbis took the defendant into custody, Tiller returned to the store and found the woman, Beatrice Topps, who had been with the defendant.

Officer Eisenbis testified that, following the arrest of the defendant, he took the defendant to the Evergreen Park police station. He stated that when he arrested the defendant, he found Smith's health insurance card and Smith's calling card in defendant's possession.

Thereafter, Officer Rubin Garza of the Chicago police department, who had been at the Smith robbery scene, arrived at the Evergreen Park station and transported the defendant to a Chicago police station for processing. A Chicago police department detective, John Garrity, testified that the defendant told him that he, along with Glen Selby and Selby's girlfriend, had broken into Smith's apartment, tied Smith up, searched Smith's apartment for money, and taken Smith's credit cards.

After the presentation of this evidence, the defendant took the stand and testified that he lived with Beatrice Topps and their two children on the same floor as Smith in the apartment building at 4659 South Drexel in Chicago. He also testified that he saw Smith on February 21, 1984, sometime before noon, but that he never went into Smith's apartment. He testified further that between the hours of 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. on that same day, February 21, 1984, he was inside his apartment at 4659 South Drexel. He said that he had Smith's credit cards when he was arrested because he had bought the credit cards from Selby, an acquaintance, in exchange for $10 and Selby's agreement to forgive a $45 debt which the defendant owed Selby. The defendant admitted that he knew the cards were stolen, but he denied any involvement in the Smith robbery. He further denied ...


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