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March 30, 1994


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Matthew J. Moran, Judge Presiding.

As Corrected August 5, 1994.

Tully, Rizzi, Cerda

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Tully

PRESIDING JUSTICE TULLY delivered the opinion of the court:

After a jury trial, defendant Robert F. Buehler was convicted of armed robbery in violation of section 18-2 of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 38, par. 18-2 (now codified as 720 ILCS 5/18-2 (West 1992))) and sentenced to serve a term of 15 years' imprisonment. It is from the judgment of conviction that defendant now appeals to this court pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 603 (134 Ill. 2d R. 603).

On appeal, defendant argues that: (1) he was denied a fair trial by the admission of evidence of the religious backgrounds of two State witnesses; (2) the prosecutor improperly inquired as to whether visits were paid to defendant in jail; (3) he was denied a fair trial when the prosecutor presented rebuttal testimony concerning defendant's alleged sexual relationship with a woman; (4) the trial court erred in granting the State's motion in limine to preclude the presentation of evidence as to whether or not defendant had ever been convicted of a crime; (5) the prosecutor made improper remarks during closing argument; and (6) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing him.

For the reasons which follow, we affirm.

On January 24, 1991, at approximately 12:30 a.m., Michael Thompson and Suresh Kumar were returning from a prayer meeting to their apartment located at the intersection of Spaulding Avenue and Bryn Mawr Avenue in Chicago. After Thompson parked his car on nearby Catalpa Avenue, the two men walked to the corner of Spaulding Avenue and Catalpa Avenue and then proceeded north on Spaulding Avenue towards their apartment.

About 50 feet ahead of Thompson and Kumar, on the same side of the street, two men exited a gangway and began walking north. One of the men, was described as an Oriental with an olive complexion and black hair, 18- to 20-years-old and about 5'6" in height, weighing approximately 160 pounds and dressed in a black jacket, black shorts and black gym shoes. The other man, defendant, was described as an 18- to 20-year-old Caucasian with a fair complexion and light brown hair, approximately 5'9", weighing about 160 pounds and wearing a navy blue sweatshirt with a hood and high-top gym shoes.

Defendant and the man in shorts stopped at the intersection of Spaulding-Avenue and an alley just before where Spaulding Avenue and Bryn Mawr Avenue cross. The temperature that night was below freezing. As Thompson and Kumar approached where the two other men had stopped, Thompson asked, "Hey, why are you wearing shorts?" Before Thompson finished his query, both of the darkly-clad individuals turned around and defendant put a gun to Thompson's head.

Defendant pushed Thompson down onto the ground into some snow beneath a tree and demanded, "Give me your money or I will shoot you." Simultaneously, the man in shorts yelled at Kumar, "Get lost from here or else I will kill you." Kumar then walked about 40 to 50 feet away and subsequently attempted to return. The man in shorts continued to holler "Get lost from here."

Although defendant was wearing a hood, Thompson obtained a good view of defendant's face as it was not covered by the hood and the area was lit. Once he had Thompson on the ground, defendant, while straddling him, began to search Thompson's pockets. While having no money in his wallet, Thompson did have a school book bag and a pocket full of quarters that he had earned as tips. Throughout the exchange defendant had his gun pointed at Thompson's head and repeatedly yelled from about 3 to 4 inches away from Thompson's face, "Give me your money or I'm going to kill you. Where do you keep your money?" Defendant's breath reeked of alcohol. Defendant took everything that Thompson had in his pockets but left him with his school bag.

Defendant then got up and walked away from Thompson for several feet and then walked back. At this point, defendant ripped Thompson's book bag from his shoulder and headed east down the alley. The man in shorts fled north on Spaulding Avenue. Thompson and Kumar then called the Chicago police.

Officer Christie Roberts responded to the call. Roberts took a description of the assailants and investigated the crime scene. Whereupon, she found ...

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