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09/15/95 PEOPLE STATE ILLINOIS v. JERRY W. LOVINGS

September 15, 1995

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JERRY W. LOVINGS, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 93-CF-1925. Honorable Ronald L. Pirrello, Judge, Presiding.

Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied December 6, 1995.

The Honorable Justice Bowman delivered the opinion of the court: Inglis and Geiger, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bowman

The Honorable Justice BOWMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

A grand jury indicted defendant, Jerry W. Lovings, for armed robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-2(a) (West 1994)). Following a two-day bench trial in which defendant appeared pro se with an assistant public defender acting as standby counsel, the trial court found defendant not guilty of armed robbery but guilty of robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-1(a) (West 1994)). The trial court sentenced defendant to 12 years' imprisonment. Defendant now appeals his conviction, seeking either reversal outright or a new trial. We affirm.

Raymond Guinter, the alleged victim, testified at trial that on September 18, 1993, he was sitting on the hood of his car, waiting for a friend in the parking lot of the Grand Hotel in Rockford. He stated that defendant approached him and offered to sell him some crack cocaine. Guinter declined the offer, entered his car, and sat behind the steering wheel. Defendant then entered Guinter's car through the unlocked front passenger door and sat next to Guinter. Defendant asked Guinter again if he wanted to purchase some crack. Guinter again refused the offer. Defendant then announced to Guinter that he had a gun and demanded Guinter's money. Guinter testified that "after the initial shock or whatever wore off" he gave defendant his money, which consisted of two $20 bills. Defendant took the money, exited Guinter's car, and entered a black Buick parked nearby. Guinter recorded the Buick's license number and drove off to find a telephone. He stopped at a convenience store a few blocks from the Grand Hotel and called the police.

In response to questions from the prosecutor, Guinter admitted that he had previously been convicted of burglary and residential burglary and that he had charges pending against him for aggravated battery and disorderly conduct. Guinter stated, however, that he expected no "deal" on the pending charges in exchange for his testimony.

Rockford police officers Robert Cole and Dana Smith responded to Guinter's call. Officer Cole stated that while he was talking to Guinter in front of the convenience store, the black Buick Guinter had described passed them on the street. He pursued the Buick in his vehicle and forced it to stop. There were three individuals riding inthe Buick. Gary Gray was the driver; Tuck Hopson and defendant were passengers.

Officer Smith testified that, after Officer Cole went in pursuit of the Buick, he followed with Guinter in his vehicle. When they arrived at the location where the Buick was stopped, the officers had Guinter view each of its occupants one at a time. Guinter identified defendant as the man who had robbed him. The officers searched defendant and found one $20 bill. They then searched Gray and found a second $20 bill. They also recovered a .22-caliber BB pistol from the car. The officers transported defendant, Gray, and Hopson to the Rockford public safety building.

Gary Gray testified for the defense and told a drastically different story. Gray stated that on September 18, 1993, he was in the parking lot of the Grand Hotel drinking with some friends, including defendant and Tuck Hopson. Upon seeing Guinter, someone suggested that they try to sell him some ground-up drywall, packaged to look like crack. Tuck Hopson approached Guinter and sold him two bags of drywall for $20. Then, according to Gray, defendant approached Guinter and sold him two additional bags of drywall for $20. Gray testified that they then watched and laughed as Guinter put the drywall in a crack pipe and attempted, unsuccessfully, to smoke it. On cross-examination, Gray admitted that, in a statement he made to the police on September 18, 1993, shortly after being detained, he did not mention the sale of drywall to Guinter. He maintained, however, that his memory of the incident was better at the time of trial than it was when he made the statement to the police.

After hearing the above evidence, the trial court found defendant not guilty of armed robbery but guilty of robbery. Regarding the armed robbery charge, the trial court stated:

"He [Guinter] clearly never saw a weapon. A weapon was never displayed. The presence of a weapon was never corroborated by anything other than a weapon having been found in the front seat of a car in which the defendant was riding as a passenger."

In support of its determination that defendant was guilty of robbery, the trial court stated:

"I watched the demeanor of the accusing witness, Raymond Guinter. I thought he testified exceedingly well for a person in his circumstances. I thought that nothing he said was even remotely impeached ...


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