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08/29/89 the People of the State of v. Augustus Balthazar

August 29, 1989

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE

v.

AUGUSTUS BALTHAZAR, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, SECOND DIVISION

543 N.E.2d 994, 187 Ill. App. 3d 964, 135 Ill. Dec. 426 1989.IL.1329

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Steven A. Schiller, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE SCARIANO delivered the opinion of the court. HARTMAN and DiVITO, JJ., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE SCARIANO

Defendant was convicted in a bench trial of possession of a stolen motor vehicle. He appeals, arguing that the State failed to prove ownership of the vehicle, an essential element of the offense, and that section 4-103(b) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 95 1/2, par. 4-103(b)), defining the offense of possession of a stolen motor vehicle, is unconstitutional.

Chicago police officer Donald Wolverton testified at trial that on June 25, 1985, he was on patrol in a marked squad car in the vicinity of 345 South Albany Avenue in Chicago when he observed four men sitting in a parked car with no license plates. As he approached the car, the four men exited the auto and began running in different directions. The officer chased defendant and Zeke Myles, but was able to catch only Myles. According to Wolverton, Myles claimed that defendant had stolen the car. The officer further testified that he recognized defendant as one of the men in the car when he turned and looked back at Wolverton as he fled. Wolverton testified that he had known defendant for five or six years, had arrested him in the past, and had seen him a few months prior to June 1985. The officer named defendant in his case report as "a wanted offender," and a warrant for his arrest was obtained.

After arresting Myles, Wolverton returned to the car, a 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, and observed that the left-hand side of the steering column was peeled, the car radio was missing and the trunk lock had been pried away. Wolverton learned the identity of the owner of the car by running a computer check using the car's vehicle identification number; he then went to see him at approximately 6 a.m.

Ambrus Horton, the owner, testified that he had locked his car doors when he parked it in front of his house at approximately 9:30 p.m. on June 24, 1985. He had not realized his car was missing until notified by the police. Horton stated that Wolverton came to his home at approximately 5 a.m. on June 25, 1985, and that he accompanied the officer to the police station, where he saw his car. He testified that his car was "almost demolished," the steering column had been peeled, the dashboard was torn out, the car radio was missing, the window and lock had been knocked out and the personal property he had left in the car was missing.

Myles, a friend of defendant, testified that he was merely approaching the car and not actually in it when the police began chasing him; however, he admitted that he had pleaded guilty to "being inside the car." Myles claimed that defendant was not with him on the morning of June 25, 1985, and that he never told Wolverton that defendant had stolen the car.

Defendant denied any involvement in the incident, claiming that he was at home in bed on the morning of June 25, 1985, and that he was not with Myles nor chased by Wolverton.

Defendant was acquitted of the charge of burglary, but found guilty of possession of a stolen motor vehicle. Based upon this conviction, his probation for a prior burglary was revoked and he received concurrent six-year prison terms for both offenses. This appeal followed., Defendant was convicted under the following statute:

"Offenses relating to motor vehicles and other vehicles-felonies. (a) It is a violation of this Chapter for:

(1) A person not entitled to the possession of a vehicle or part of a vehicle to receive, possess, conceal, sell, dispose, or transfer it, knowing it to have been stolen or converted; additionally the General Assembly finds that the acquisition and Disposition of vehicles and their essential parts are strictly controlled by law and that such acquisition and Disposition are reflected by documents of title, uniform invoices, and bills of sale. It may be inferred, therefore that a person exercising exclusive unexplained possession over a stolen or converted vehicle . . . has knowledge that such vehicle or essential part is stolen or ...


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