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People v. McComb

March 20, 2000

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
V.
GEORGE MCCOMB, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice O'mara Frossard

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable John J. Moran, Jr., Judge Presiding.

Following a bench trial, defendant George McComb was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 10 years in prison. On appeal, defendant contends that the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and that the court abused its discretion by imposing a 10-year prison sentence.

FACTS

At trial, Sam Newton testified that on December 21, 1997, at about 11 a.m., he left a grocery store where he had just purchased beer and cigarettes, still carrying money in his hand. He was putting the money back into his wallet when co-defendant Michael McComb came up to him, asked him, "What are you looking for, old man?" and grabbed $150 from him. Michael McComb then ran north on Michigan Avenue and Mr. Newton chased him. Almost a block away, defendant, who appeared to have a gun in his right hand, stepped out of a car and asked Mr. Newton, "What you going to do now, * * *?" Mr. Newton turned around and ran away, and the two men then fled in the car, with defendant driving. Mr. Newton went back to the grocery store and wrote down the license plate number of the car, which he described as white, with a gray "prime" door on the driver's side. He then went to the police station to report the robbery.

Mr. Newton left the station, went to another location with his cousin to pick up automobile body parts for his work, and then returned to the area to look for the offenders' white car. Mr. Newton and his cousin saw the car on the corner where the grocery store was located and called the police. When the police arrived, Mr. Newton and his cousin sat in the police car and waited for the offenders to return to their car. After about 15 minutes, three men got into the car and started to drive down the block. The police pulled the car over, and Mr. Newton identified defendant and co-defendant Michael McComb as the men who robbed him. The third man was not involved in the armed robbery.

Michael McComb and defendant George McComb are cousins.

Chicago police detective Milton Owens testified that he and Assistant State's Attorney Scaduto interviewed defendant after he was arrested. Defendant gave a written statement in which he stated that he and co-defendant saw Mr. Newton leave a liquor store on the morning in question. Co-defendant approached Mr. Newton. Defendant indicated in his statement that the co-defendant had a gun sticking out from his sleeve, he was pointing it at the man and took the man's money from his hand. Defendant acted as a lookout. Defendant indicated he was standing a few feet away from his co-defendant and he was looking up and down Michigan Avenue for the police. The defendant indicated in his statement that he had arranged with co-defendant that he would call out a warning if he saw the police approach. After co-defendant had taken Mr. Newton's money, defendant and co-defendant both ran down the street. Co-defendant got into a white car and fled, while defendant ran away through a gangway chased by Mr. Newton. Defendant met co-defendant later in an abandoned apartment to divide the money. Co-defendant gave defendant $50.

The parties stipulated that Chicago police officer Weatherly would testify that he prepared a report after Mr. Newton came to the police station on the day in question. According to Weatherly's report, Mr. Newton stated that while he was trying to buy drugs at 71st and Michigan Avenue the offenders displayed a gun, took $150 from him, and fled. On cross-examination Mr. Newton denied telling this to Officer Weatherly.

At the sentencing hearing, the court considered the nature of the circumstances and the seriousness of the offense, as well as factors in aggravation and mitigation before imposing a term of 10 years in prison. Defense counsel brought a motion for reconsideration of sentence, based on the fact that co-defendant, who had earlier pleaded guilty, received a prison term of six years. The court denied the motion, based on the different factual circumstances. In sentencing, the court noted that defendant was on probation for a previous gun offense at the time he committed this offense, and stated that "[t]he inclination is for more, in terms of years," but found that a 10-year term was nonetheless appropriate.

On appeal, defendant contends that the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt because it failed to prove the requisite elements of the offense. Defendant contends that his conviction was based on a theory of accountability under which the facilitation of co-defendant's escape was improperly considered as an element of the offense. Defendant also argues it was an abuse of discretion to impose a 10-year imprisonment term.

ANALYSIS

In assessing whether the evidence against a defendant was sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a reviewing court must determine whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. People v. Taylor, 186 Ill. 2d 439, 445 (1999). Under this standard, a court of review may not reverse the guilty finding unless the evidence was so unreasonable, improbable, or unsatisfactory as to create a reasonable doubt of the defendant's guilt, and a court of review may not substitute its judgment for that of the trier of fact. People v. Furby, 138 Ill. 2d 434, 455 (1990).

In Illinois, a person is legally accountable for the conduct of another when, either before or during the commission of an offense and with the intent to promote or facilitate its commission, he solicits, aids, abets, agrees or attempts to aid the other in the planning or commission of the offense. 720 ILCS 5/5-2(c) (West 1998). A defendant may be accountable for acts performed by another if defendant shared the criminal intent of the principal or if there was a common criminal plan or purpose. People v. Taylor, 164 Ill. 2d 131 (1995).

Under Illinois law, "A person intends, or acts intentionally or with intent, to accomplish a result or engage in conduct described by the statute defining the offense, when his conscious objective or purpose is to accomplish that result or engage in that conduct." 720 ILCS 5/4-4 (West 1998). Some factors that may be considered in determining whether, based on the totality of the circumstances, defendant is accountable include: presence at the scene of the crime without dissociating oneself from the crime, acting as a lookout, flight from the crime scene, continued association with the perpetrator ...


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