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09/20/89 the People of the State of v. Donald Sanders

September 20, 1989





544 N.E.2d 788, 131 Ill. 2d 58, 136 Ill. Dec. 102 1989.IL.1451

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Third District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Peoria County, the Hon. Peter Paolucci, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE RYAN delivered the opinion of the court.


This criminal appeal presents two issues. The first issue is whether the trial court lost jurisdiction when it failed to sentence the defendant for almost 4 1/2 years after his conviction. We reverse the appellate court on this issue and find that, based on the facts presented, the trial court did not lose jurisdiction. The second issue, which the appellate court did not address, is whether the trial court's refusal to vacate its judgment of bond forfeiture was correct. We conclude that the trial court Judge properly refused to vacate the bond forfeiture judgment.

The facts giving rise to this appeal are as follows. The defendant, Donald Sanders, was one of seven individuals indicted in Peoria County for the offenses of theft, syndicated gambling, conspiracy to commit gambling, and two counts of gambling. Following a joint jury trial, Sanders was found guilty of all of the charged offenses except theft. This conviction occurred on September 2, 1982. On October 1, 1982, the defendant filed his post-trial motion. In the defendant's presence, the hearing on the motion and sentencing were scheduled for October 29, 1982. Sanders' bond was set at $20,000 ($2,000 cash deposited).

The defendant failed to appear at the October 29 hearing. His bond was forfeited and a warrant for his arrest was issued with bond set at $40,000, and a hearing on the forfeiture was scheduled for December 3, 1982. The defendant did not respond by December 3. As a result, the trial Judge entered judgment on the forfeiture and issued a warrant for defendant's arrest with no bond set.

Nine months later, on September 6, 1983, the defendant (through his attorney) requested a continuance because he was in Federal custody on a State warrant. The trial Judge refused to vacate the $2,000 forfeiture judgment and bond was set at $75,000 ($7,500 cash). The case was continued for hearing on the defendant's post-trial motion and sentencing to October 14, 1983. On that date, the bond was reduced to $40,000 ($4,000 cash) and the case was continued by his attorney to November 21, 1983. The defendant posted $4,000 cash bond on October 17, 1983. On November 21, 1983, defense counsel again requested a continuance and the case was scheduled for a hearing on the defendant's post-trial motion and sentencing on January 16, 1984.

On January 13, 1984, the defendant filed a pro se "Motion to Dismiss Conviction" based on the November 16, 1983, decision of the Illinois Appellate Court in People v. Jones (1983), 119 Ill. App. 3d 883. Jones held that those individuals with whom the defendant had stood trial had not been prosecuted within 160 days as required by the Illinois speedy-trial act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, par. 103-5(b)). The defendant contended that he was also entitled to relief on this ground and that his claim should be ruled on before the sentencing proceedings began.

On January 16, 1984, defendant appeared pro se, the State was served with his motion, and the cause was continued by agreement to March 30, 1984, "for hearing on defendant's motion if Supreme Court has ruled on State's petition" for leave to appeal in Jones. The trial court did not hold the hearing on the defendant's motion on the scheduled date and the defendant did not raise the issue again.

This court granted leave to appeal in Jones on April 3, 1984. On November 30, 1984, this court reversed the appellate court's decision in Jones and held that there had been no constitutional or statutory speedy-trial violations. This court remanded the case to the appellate court for consideration of other issues. (People v. Jones (1984), 104 Ill. 2d 268.) The appellate court found no reversible error and issued its mandate on November 5, 1985.

The defendant later testified at his sentencing hearing with respect to his whereabouts during this time period. He stated that he resided in and was employed in Los Angeles, California, during 1984-86. He additionally testified that he worked undercover for the Los Angeles sheriff's department on and off throughout this time period after leaving the Federal Witness Protection Program in October 1983. For periods of three to four months at a time, the defendant would assume various identities and could not be reached through his legal name and address.

On June 13, 1986, approximately 2 1/2 years after the defendant had last appeared in court, the State notified the defendant that his sentencing hearing would be held on June 30, 1986. This notice was sent to three different addresses in California. The defendant, however, did not appear at the scheduled sentencing hearing. As a result, his $40,000 bond ($4,000 cash) was forfeited and a warrant was issued with bond set at $75,000 ($7,500 cash). A hearing on the forfeiture was scheduled for July 31, 1986, and notice of the forfeiture was sent to the defendant ...

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