APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIFTH DIVISION
540 N.E.2d 782, 184 Ill. App. 3d 277, 132 Ill. Dec. 860 1989.IL.453
JUSTICE COCCIA delivered the opinion of the court. MURRAY, P.J., and LORENZ, J., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE COCCIA
Charles Brown and DeWayne Thomas were charged by indictment with possessing Dennis Prisant's 1984 Oldsmobile, vehicle identification number 1G3AZ57YXEE320794. Brown was tried without a jury on October 27, 1986. It was stipulated at trial that an agent from Seltzer Leasing Corporation of Northbrook, if called, would testify that in April 1986, Seltzer owned a 1984 Olds Coupe, vehicle identification number 1G3AZ57YXEE320794, Illinois license plate number SLC90, and that it leased this car to Dennis Prisant on April 22 and 23. It was also stipulated that Prisant, if called, would testify that he was in possession of this vehicle on April 22, 1986, that he gave no one permission to possess it, and that the car was in normal operating condition the last time he saw it.
The sole witness for the prosecution was Officer Calvin Blanks of the Chicago police department. Officer Blanks testified that he and his partner were on routine patrol at approximately 11:50 p.m. on April 22, 1986. Both officers were in plain clothes, and Blanks was driving their unmarked vehicle. They received a report over the radio that an auto was being stripped in the alley behind 4107 West Harrison in Chicago. They entered the alley and headed west with their lights off. Blanks observed a parked auto with two men next to it. Although this vehicle's lights also were off, lighting conditions were good, because of a nearby streetlamp. Blanks stopped his car no more than 15 feet away from the other car, which was facing him. He noticed that one man, whom he identified in court as Brown, was stooped over the left front portion of the parked vehicle, next to the front tire. The other man was at the left rear portion of the vehicle, near the rear tire. Blanks observed that Brown was in the process of taking the left front tire off the car. Blanks exited the unmarked squad car and announced his office. After this announcement, Brown stood up straight, with the tire still in his hands, and turned toward Blanks. The latter walked toward Brown. He "froze" for a few seconds, looking directly at Blanks, then dropped the tire and fled.
The other suspect also ran, and Blanks and his partner pursued them. Brown ran south, then turned west into an adjacent alley. He climbed a nearby fence and went into a yard. During the chase, Blanks maintained a distance of no more than 10 feet behind Brown. Blanks told his partner to follow Brown, while he continued down the alley and turned onto the street. Blanks then headed east. No more than 10 seconds elapsed between the time Blanks lost sight of Brown in the alley and the time he saw Brown emerge from a gangway, enter the street, and turn west, some 40 feet away from him. Brown continued running for approximately 15 feet, then stopped and began to walk. No one else was on the street at that time. Blanks took Brown into custody, noting that he was breathing heavily.
After handcuffing Brown, Blanks conducted a search. He felt a hard object in Brown's left jacket pocket, which on examination proved to be four Oldsmobile hubcap emblems. Blanks placed Brown in the unmarked squad car and then searched the location surrounding the parked car, where he first saw Brown. The car had Illinois license plates, which read "Sam Lincoln Charlie 9090." It was jacked up, with only one tire remaining. Blanks recovered three more tires and one spare in the area. He stated that, "On all the tires the hubcaps had been removed" and that the emblems had been removed from the hubcaps.
Blanks then transported Brown to the Eleventh District Station. Later that morning, at about 1:30 a.m., Blanks and his partner gave Brown the Miranda warnings and then interrogated him. Brown stated that he understood his rights and then waived them. Brown denied stealing the car. But he confessed that he and the other suspect rode the bus to Cermak and Cicero, where they saw the vehicle in question. The other suspect pried open the window of that car, and Brown reached in to open the door. The other suspect then drove him back to Chicago in the stolen car. Officer Blanks further testified that the stolen car and its hubcap emblems were returned to the owner shortly after Brown's confession. When Officer Blanks' testimony was completed, the State rested, and Brown's motion for a directed finding was denied.
Charles Brown's mother, Betty Brown, testified in his behalf. Mrs. Brown stated that she and her son lived at 4151 West Fifth Avenue. At about 11:45 p.m. on April 22, 1986, she asked him to get her a cheeseburger from Mary's restaurant, which was located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Pulaski. From her window, she watched her son head toward the restaurant. Before she lost sight of Charles, she saw him stop and speak with several young men. While Brown was on his errand, one DeWayne Thomas stopped by the former's home. Thomas left when Brown's mother informed him that Charles was not home. Mrs. Brown also testified that there was no streetlamp in the alley where the crime occurred.
Vernon Benson, Claude Sanders, and Sharon Shoulders testified for Brown. They all knew him for several years before the incident and stated that they each saw him on April 22, 1986, at approximately 11:45 p.m. Benson said that he and Brown had a conversation at the corner of Keeler and Fifth Avenue. Brown told Benson that he was going to Mary's for his mother and left in that direction after five or six minutes. Sanders saw Brown on his way home from work. At the northwest corner of Pulaski and Fifth Avenue, Brown, Sanders, and a man named Carl spoke briefly. Mary's was closed, so Brown proceeded down Fifth Avenue. After finishing his conversation with Carl, Sanders went home. Shoulders was going home on the Pulaski bus from a friend's house. She got off the bus at Fifth Avenue. A number of people, including Brown, had congregated there. She greeted Brown and then left.
DeWayne Thomas testified pursuant to subpoena. On the evening of April 22, 1986, Thomas said that he went alone to Berwyn and stole a black Oldsmobile Toronado. He returned to Chicago and went by Brown's home. Mrs. Brown told him that her son was not there. He found a man named Jerome to help him strip the stolen car, and they were caught in the act by the police. On cross-examination, he admitted that he pleaded guilty to this offense.
Finally, Brown himself testified. He stated that, at about 11:45 p.m. on April 22, 1986, he was home with his mother. She asked him to get her a cheeseburger. On his way to Mary's restaurant, he saw Benson and stopped to speak with him, and others, for approximately five minutes. When he got to Mary's, he discovered that it was closed, so he decided to return home. He spoke with Shoulders and Sanders along the way. Thereafter, while walking on the north side of Fifth Avenue between Karlov and Kedvale, he was arrested. Brown denied being in the alley or stripping a car therein. He further denied that Officer Blanks found anything in his coat or that he rode the bus to Berwyn with Thomas. Brown recalled being read the Miranda warnings, but he denied confessing to the crime. The defense rested after Brown's testimony. At the end of closing arguments, the trial Judge found Brown guilty.
Brown's post-trial motion was heard on December 8, 1986. His attorney argued only that Brown was not in possession of the stolen car within the meaning of the statute, since possession of a vehicle's tire is not equivalent to possession of the vehicle itself. The Judge denied the motion and sentenced Brown to 3 1/2 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. I
Brown has assigned four errors for our review. First, he argues that his conduct did not fall within the purview of the statute under which he was convicted. Section 4-103 (Ill. Rev. ...