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People v. Green

December 23, 1998

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
KARON D. GREEN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 97CF736

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS

Honorable James A. Hendrian, Judge Presiding.

In June 1997, the State charged defendant, KaRon D. Green, with armed violence (720 ILCS 5/33A-2 (West 1996)) and possession of a controlled substance (less than 15 grams of a substance containing cocaine) (720 ILCS 570/402(c) (West 1996)). In August 1997, defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence, and in September 1997, the trial court heard and denied it.

In October 1997, the trial court conducted a bench trial, at which the parties stipulated that the court could consider the evidence previously presented at the hearing on defendant's motion to suppress. Following the stipulated bench trial, the court found defendant guilty of armed violence and possession of a controlled substance. The court later sentenced defendant to 15 years in prison on the armed violence conviction, the minimum sentence statutorily permitted. 720 ILCS 5/33A- 3(a) (West 1996).

Defendant appeals, arguing that (1) the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence; and (2) under the circumstances of this case, the 15-year mandatory minimum sentence for armed violence violates the disproportionality and due process clauses of the Illinois Constitution. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

At the September 1997 hearing on defendant's motion to suppress evidence, the only witnesses who testified were defendant and Decatur police officer David Pruitt. Pruitt testified that on the afternoon of May 4, 1997, he was dispatched to the area of Church and Leafland Streets in Decatur because an unidentified caller had informed the police that a black male, wearing blue jeans and having gold teeth, was on the corner pointing a gun at another black male, who had long hair. Pruitt drove to the intersection and saw a white Buick parked nearby with three black males inside.

Pruitt parked his car about 30 feet from the Buick and watched as the occupants got out of that car. One of them, defendant, who was wearing blue jeans and a sweatshirt began walking toward Pruitt. As defendant approached Pruitt, Pruitt asked defendant if Pruitt "could talk to him for a minute. He complied." Defendant stopped to speak with Pruitt, who told defendant about the call the police had received and asked defendant if he had seen anything like that. Pruitt then testified that defendant "raised his arm in disgust at something I guess I had said." When defendant made this gesture, the sweatshirt covering his jeans pocket raised up, permitting Pruitt to see a bulge in defendant's right front jeans pocket. Pruitt believed the bulge was a small handgun based on his training, experience, and the outline of the object.

Pruitt then asked defendant to put his hands on his head. Defendant complied, and Pruitt patted down the outside of defendant's clothing where he saw the bulge. When he felt what he believed to be a handgun inside defendant's pocket, Pruitt removed the object from defendant's pocket and found it to be a .38 caliber Danish derringer.

Pruitt then arrested defendant and placed him in the backseat of Pruitt's squad car for transport to the police station. Pruitt subse- quently found some cocaine in the backseat of his squad car. Although that cocaine was the basis of the possession of a controlled substance charge against defendant, defendant not contest the State's claim that the cocaine found in Pruitt's squad car came from defendant.

Defendant testified substantially the same as Pruitt. Defendant said that as he walked from the Buick, Pruitt said, "could you please come here." On cross-examination, the prosecutor asked defendant the following questions and received the following answers:

"Q. And then your testimony is that [Pruitt] asked you, can I ...


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