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People v. Rivera

April 07, 1999


Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit, Grundy County, Illinois, No. 96--CF--81 Honorable Robert H. Adcock, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Slater

Defendant Martin Rivera appeals from his conviction for unlawful possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 570/401(a)(2)(D) (West 1996)). He argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to quash arrest and to suppress evidence and statements. For reasons that follow, we affirm in part, reverse in part and remand for a new trial.


At the suppression hearing, Grundy County sheriff's deputy Angelo Sallese testified that two weeks prior to defendant's arrest, an informant told him that he could provide information about cocaine coming into the area from Aurora. The informant was known to Sallese, but he had not previously furnished information to the police.

On September 16, 1996, the informant telephoned Sallese in the afternoon and said that cocaine would be arriving in the Morris area around 7:30 p.m. At 7:50 p.m., the informant telephoned again and said that the cocaine would be arriving at the Morris Municipal Airport around 8 o'clock in a red Chevrolet Aerostar or Astrovan. Sallese and his partner, Deputy Loni Harvey, proceeded to the airport, drove through the empty parking lot and parked by a hangar. At 8 o'clock, the officers received a radio dispatch from Lieutenant Frank Schmitt, who was patrolling the area in an unmarked squad car. Schmitt said a red Chevrolet van had just pulled into the lot. As Sallese and Harvey approached in their patrol car, the van started up and moved toward the exit. Sallese activated his lights, and the van stopped. Sallese parked behind the van, and Schmitt then pulled his vehicle in front of the van to block it. Harvey approached the driver, defendant, while Sallese walked up to the passenger.

Harvey testified that after defendant produced his driver's license and identification, Harvey asked where they were going. Defendant said they were going to Aurora for coffee. He said the van was his and denied that anything illegal was in it. Harvey asked if he could search it, and defendant consented. The defendant exited the van while Schmitt conducted a search.

Schmitt found an Aldi grocery bag under the driver's seat. He felt its contents and, without opening the bag, asked defendant if it contained cocaine. Defendant said, "Yes." Schmitt asked defendant if the cocaine was his. Defendant said, "No," and indicated that it belonged to his passenger, Fulgencio Cisneros. Defendant and Cisneros were then handcuffed and removed from the scene for booking. Schmitt testified that defendant was not free to go after he admitted that the bag contained cocaine. Defendant was not given Miranda warnings until after he arrived at the police station.

The officers testified that a three- to five-minute period elapsed between the initial stop of defendant's van and the point at which he was handcuffed. A total of six or seven police officers, including Municipal Area Narcotics Squad (MANS) agents and four or five squad cars, were on the scene. In addition, Sid Nelson, manager of the Morris Municipal Airport, testified that prior to September 16, 1996, he had requested the sheriff's department to patrol the airport premises after 8 p.m. because of prior burglaries. By 8 p.m., he said, the restaurant and flight school were closed and it was unusual for vehicles to be in the parking lot.

Testifying on his own behalf, the defendant stated that the police stopped him immediately after entering the airport parking lot and handcuffed him immediately after he stepped out of the van. At the close of the evidence, the court denied defendant's motion to quash arrest and to suppress evidence and statements. Defendant was subsequently convicted, as charged, and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment.


A. Legality of Stop

Defendant first challenges the legality of the stop based on a tip obtained from an unnamed informant. He argues that the informant's tip in this case was neither reliable nor adequately corroborated by the police prior to the investigatory stop.

It is well settled that the police may stop any person in a public place for a reasonable period of time if the officer reasonably suspects that the person is committing, or is about to commit a crime. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 20 L. Ed. 2d 889, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968); 725 ILCS 5/107--14 (West 1996). An informant's tip may allow an officer to reasonably infer that a person is involved in criminal activity if the information provided is sufficiently reliable. Adams v. Williams, 407 U.S. 143, 32 L. Ed. 2d 612, 92 S. Ct. 1921 (1972). The officer's independent corroboration of specific details provided by an anonymous tipster may establish that the informant had access to reliable information and give rise to a reasonable suspicion justifying a Terry stop. Alabama v. White, 496 U.S. 325, 110 L. Ed. 2d 301, 110 S. Ct. 2412 (1990); People v. Messamore, 245 Ill. App. 3d 627, 615 N.E.2d 762 (1993). On review, this court applies a deferential standard to the trial court's findings of fact and determines the reasonableness of the officer's conduct de novo. People v. Perez, 288 Ill. App. 3d 1037, 681 N.E.2d 173 (1997).

In this case, the informant, although known to Officer Sallese, had no track record for providing the police with reliable information of criminal activity. Accordingly, the tip had to be sufficiently detailed and independently corroborated to justify the stop of defendant's van. Sallese's informant told him (1) the make, model and color of the vehicle--a red Chevrolet Astrovan *fn1 ; (2) the vehicle's point of origin--Aurora; (3) the point of arrival in Grundy County--the Morris airport; and (4) the time of arrival--8 p.m. Except for the vehicle's connection to Aurora, every detail of the tip was corroborated by the police by the time they stopped the defendant, thereby imparting reliability to ...

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