Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 98--CF--1033 Honorable Michael J. Burke, Judge, Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN
Defendant, Harvey J. Patterson, filed a pro se notice of appeal, and, soon afterwards, the clerk of the circuit court filed an appeal on defendant's behalf. We have consolidated the two appeals, which raise a single issue.
Defendant was charged with forgery (720 ILCS 5/17--3(a)(1) (West 1998)), attempted theft (720 ILCS 5/8--4(a), 16--1(a)(1)(A) (West 1998)), attempted aggravated unlawful possession of a stolen motor vehicle (720 ILCS 5/8--4(a) (West 1998); 625 ILCS 5/4--103.2(a)(3) (West 1998)), and vehicle theft conspiracy (625 ILCS 5/4--103.1(a) (West 1998)). Pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement, defendant pleaded guilty to forgery and attempted possession of a stolen motor vehicle. Defendant was sentenced to four years on each count with the sentences to run concurrently, and he was credited with 113 days served. Soon afterwards, the State moved to have the $6,000 defendant used to fraudulently purchase the vehicle disposed of pursuant to section 1 of the Law Enforcement Disposition of Property Act (Act) (765 ILCS 1030/1 (West 1998)). The trial court granted the State's motion. Defendant appeals, arguing that there was no authority for the trial court's order that allowed the State to dispose of the $6,000. We affirm.
The basis for defendant's guilty plea established that on June 1, 1998, defendant, using the alias Kurt Kappes, entered into a contract with Bill Kay Chevrolet to purchase a 1998 Chevrolet Corvette for $47,851.45. Defendant took a substantial step towards possessing the vehicle in that defendant, claiming to be Kurt Kappes, took possession of the vehicle knowing that he was not entitled to possess it.
After defendant pleaded guilty, a hearing was held on the State's motion to dispose of the $6,000 defendant used as a down payment on the 1998 Corvette. At the hearing, Sergeant Michael Tellone of the Du Page County sheriff's department testified that defendant first claimed ownership of the $6,000. Defendant said that he was going to use the money to buy himself a 1998 Corvette as a birthday gift. However, defendant later told Officer Tellone a different story. Specifically, defendant said that he wanted to buy a driver's license from a Gangster Disciple who sold driver's licenses for $600. Instead of paying the Gangster Disciple $600, defendant made a deal with this individual whereby defendant would receive a driver's license and, in return, the Gangster Disciple would give defendant $6,000 to use to fraudulently purchase a 1998 Corvette for the Gangster Disciple. Defendant said that he was going to drive the car around for awhile and then turn the car over to the Gangster Disciple who gave him the $6,000.
Officer Robert Valenta testified that he spoke with defendant after defendant was arrested. During their conversation, Officer Valenta told defendant that he was going to have to take an additional $1,389 that defendant had when he was arrested. Defendant said that he did not care about the police taking the $6,000 because that money was not his. However, defendant stated that he did not want the officers to take the $1,389 because that money did belong to him.
Defendant testified that he told Officer Tellone that he saved the $6,000 in order to buy himself a car for his birthday. Defendant took all of the money he had saved to the dealership and counted out the $6,000 down payment. He then put the rest of the money he had in his pocket. Defendant denied ever talking with Officer Valenta about the $6,000.
On cross-examination, defendant testified that he worked for Green Power Development (Green Power) and Manpower. Defendant would work at Green Power when there was no work at Manpower, and he would work at Manpower when there was no work for him at Green Power. At Manpower, defendant worked 40 hours per week and earned $56 a day. Defendant would earn between $117 to $130 a day at Green Power. Before working at these two establishments, defendant did odd jobs and worked as a mover. He stated that he made around $300 to $400 a week during this time. Defendant claimed that the monthly payments for the 1998 Corvette amounted to $700 per month, and defendant testified that he could pay this amount in addition to his other expenses, which included $400 a month for rent. Defendant also stated that he was in prison prior to 1989, and he was again incarcerated for 23 months between 1995 through 1997.
After hearing the testimony, the trial court granted the State's motion to have the funds disposed of pursuant to section 1 of the Act (765 ILCS 1030/1 (West 1998)). In granting the State's motion, the trial court stated that it believed the officers' testimony over defendant's and found that defendant illegally obtained and possessed the $6,000 in order to fraudulently purchase the 1998 Corvette. This timely appeal followed.
Before addressing defendant's argument, we must note that the State's brief is clearly lacking in any thoughtful argument. The State's only claim is that defendant lacks standing to challenge the Disposition of the $6,000. The State argues that defendant does not have standing because he attempted to assert the ownership rights of another, and the trial court did not find defendant credible when he claimed that the $6,000 belonged to him. In making its argument, the State cites to only one case, Jenner v. Wissore, 164 Ill. App. 3d 259, 266-67 (1988), for the general and widely accepted proposition that judicial economy mandates that parties who lack standing cannot bring their claims before the courts.
In contrast to the assertions made in the State's poorly written brief, which failed to assist this court at all, our own research and review of this case clearly established that defendant had standing to contest the forfeiture of the $6,000. The central question to ask when deciding standing issues is whether or not the party against whom a lack-of-standing claim is made has a real interest in the outcome of the controversy. People v. $1,124,905 U.S. Currency & One 1988 Chevrolet Astro Van, 177 Ill. 2d 314, 328 (1997). In making this assessment, a court must decide whether or not the party will be benefitted if the relief sought is granted. In re Marriage of Rodriguez, 131 Ill. 2d 273, 280 (1989).
Here, defendant clearly had standing. Defendant was the possessor of the $6,000, and he has never conceded that the $6,000 did not belong to him. Because defendant claimed he was the possessor of the $6,000, he clearly had an interest in the forfeiture proceedings. Also, defendant will be benefitted if he is awarded the $6,000 because the money will be returned to him, the alleged rightful owner.
Further, we find it absurd that defendant could have standing in the trial court by claiming that the $6,000 was his and then miraculously lose his standing based on the fact that the trial court did not find defendant credible. Such a result would prevent every defendant in forfeiture proceedings from challenging a trial ...