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People v. Steading

December 03, 1999

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
V.
DAVID STEADING,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 95--CF--1644 Honorable Ronald B. Mehling, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Bowman

3 December 1999

Defendant, David Steading, was charged by indictment with two counts of possession of a stolen vehicle (625 ILCS 4--103(a)(1) (West 1994)). The State elected to prosecute defendant on only one count, and a jury convicted him of that offense. The trial court sentenced defendant to 10 years' imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Defendant appeals his conviction and argues that (1) he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel because his trial attorney failed to request a continuance to secure the testimony of his only witness; (2) the trial court erroneously denied his posttrial motion for a new trial when he presented evidence that his sole witness refused to testify because he was intimidated by a federal agent; and (3) the State did not prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

Sharon McCalla, office manager for Woodfield Chevrolet in Schaumburg, testified at trial that on December 11, 1994, a Chevrolet K- 2500 pickup truck with a plow attached was stolen from the Woodfield Chevrolet lot. The truck was a trade-in that the dealership was using to plow its lot.

Mike Pszotka, who was in charge of building maintenance at Woodfield Chevrolet, testified that December 11, 1994, was a Sunday and the dealership was closed. He went by the dealership at about 3 p.m. that day to check on a construction crew that was remodeling the showroom. Pszotka discovered that the pickup truck was missing, along with the ignition key that was supposed to be kept in a locked room inside the dealership. Pszotka testified that the dealership had a video surveillance system consisting of eight cameras in different locations. He reviewed the videotape for that day, which showed a person wearing brown coveralls walking toward the truck. Only the back of the person was visible. Pszotka confirmed that the truck was used to plow the lot and identified a photograph of the stolen truck.

On January 5, 1995, Officer Bernard Keegan of the Naperville police department observed defendant driving a red Chevrolet pickup truck at the intersection of Stearns and Route 59 in Du Page County. At the time, Keegan was a member of the auto theft task force and was engaged in surveillance of another individual. Defendant pulled into a gas station at the corner of Stearns and Route 59 and had a conversation for about 10 minutes with the person who was under surveillance. Keegan and the other officers with him then decided to initiate a surveillance on defendant.

Defendant left the gas station in the pickup truck and drove south on Route 59. Keegan and the other officers followed him to an apartment complex in North Aurora. There, defendant parked the truck in the parking lot for the apartment complex and entered the complex. Keegan then observed that the truck was a Chevrolet 2500 turbo diesel pickup truck. It had a plow attachment on the front and a sliding rear window, also referred to as a split window. There were graphics on the hood indicating that the truck had a 6.5-liter turbo diesel engine. The officers were not able to see the vehicle identification number (VIN) because there were papers covering the dashboard where the VIN plate was located. The officers did not enter the truck or speak to defendant. Keegan's report of January 5, 1995, indicated only that the truck was a newer model Chevy pickup with the license plate number 6223CW.

Keegan further testified that he saw defendant again on August 4, 1995, at the Du Page County courthouse in Wheaton and followed him to the Kane County courthouse in Geneva. At that time defendant was driving a different vehicle. Keegan had a conversation with defendant and asked him about two sets of key rings that were found in his car. Keegan went through the keys one by one and asked defendant what each key was for. There was one key that Keegan recognized as an ignition key for a General Motors vehicle. He asked defendant what that key was, and defendant responded that it was a key he used to start tractors at work. Keegan returned all of the keys to defendant.

Keegan stated that, after finishing his conversation with defendant, he went to the apartment complex in Des Plaines where defendant lived. In the complex's parking lot, he found the same pickup truck that defendant had been driving on January 5. Keegan knew it was the same truck because it had all of the same characteristics as the truck he had seen before, including the plow attachment, the graphics indicating the 6.5-liter turbo diesel engine, and the sliding back window. Again, the truck's VIN plate was covered by papers so it was not visible.

The truck was seized and towed to an impound lot in Du Page County. There, Master Sergeant Eric Norwood approached Keegan with a General Motors ignition key. Norwood told Keegan that the key was the same one Keegan had questioned defendant about earlier. Keegan tried the key in the truck's ignition and it worked. Du Page County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Quiroz testified that he removed the General Motors key from defendant's key ring and gave it to Norwood, who then gave it to Keegan.

When the truck was impounded, it had different license plates than it did on January 5. It also had a "Sea Doo" bumper sticker covering a sticker that said "Woodfield Chevrolet." The parties stipulated that documents retrieved from the truck contained Steading's fingerprints.

James Wuokko testified for the State in exchange for an agreement that he would not be prosecuted for his involvement with the stolen pickup truck. Wuokko testified that he had been arrested 37 times, had 10 felony convictions, and was incarcerated 3 times between 1980 and 1987. He used to steal cars, but at the time of trial he was no longer involved in that activity. Wuokko testified that he did not steal the pickup truck.

Wuokko testified that he had known defendant since 1979. He met with defendant on two occasions in 1995 to discuss the truck. On the first occasion, defendant drove the truck to the motel where Wuokko was staying. He and Wuokko drove around together in the truck. Defendant asked Wuokko if he could locate some "paperwork" that would fit the truck in order to conceal its identity. The paperwork would include a new title, door sticker, glove box sticker, VIN plate and license plates. Wuokko testified that he told defendant he could not provide the paperwork because the truck was brand new.

Wuokko testified that he met with defendant a second time because defendant wanted his help in covering up the dealership sticker on the truck. The two of them found a "Sea Doo" sticker in the trunk of defendant's Honda Civic. Wuokko, who used to work in a body shop, cleaned the area where they were going to put the ...


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