Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit, La Salle County, Illinois No. 98-CF-288 Honorable H. Chris Ryan Judge, Presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Homer
A jury convicted the defendant, James Lusietto, Jr., of cannabis trafficking. 720 ILCS 550/5.1 (West 1998). The defendant was sentenced to 15 years of imprisonment. On appeal, the defendant argues that: (1) the court erred in allowing the "mere fact" of his previous felony conviction into evidence; (2) his sentence was excessive; and (3) the cannabis trafficking provision violates equal protection guarantees (U.S. Const., amend. XIV; Ill. Const. 1970, art. I, §2). We affirm.
Before trial, the defendant filed a motion in limine seeking to bar introduction of his 1985 felony conviction for unlawful delivery of a controlled substance. The court ruled that the fact the defendant had a prior felony conviction could be introduced, but the name of the offense could not.
At trial, the State presented evidence that on May 12, 1998, Federal Express contacted La Salle police about a suspicious package. A dog trained to detect narcotics alerted on the package. A police officer then disguised herself as a Federal Express employee and delivered the package to its destination. Richard Presthus accepted the package and signed for it. Presthus took the package to his sister's home while he was followed by police. When Presthus emerged from the home without the package, the police stopped him. Presthus admitted to the police that the package contained cannabis. He said it had been sent by the defendant. The police retrieved the package from the home of Presthus' sister.
The return address on the package indicated that it had been sent from San Diego, California. Inside it, the police found a quantity of cannabis wrapped in saran wrap and newspapers. The police searched Presthus' home and found a Federal Express receipt for a parcel sent to the defendant in San Diego. Presthus admitted to the police that he had sent money to the defendant by Federal Express as payment for the defendant's shipments of cannabis and sunglasses.
Police officers went to San Diego and determined that the defendant was living there on a boat. The police searched the boat and found the following items: (1) a notebook containing Presthus' name and phone number; (2) a calendar containing Presthus' name and the address of his ex-wife; and (3) a card in the defendant's wallet containing the word "Stretch" and the phone number of Presthus' ex-wife.
At trial, Richard Presthus testified that his nickname was Stretch and he was 26 years old. He was a long-time friend of the defendant. Presthus stated that he and the defendant had entered into a scheme to sell cannabis and imitation designer sunglasses. He reaffirmed that the cannabis in the package had been sent to him by the defendant.
Presthus admitted that he had pled guilty to possession of cannabis with the intent to deliver in connection with this case. Presthus had agreed to provide truthful testimony in the defendant's case in return for the prosecutor's promise not to charge him with cannabis trafficking.
Forensic experts testified that two fingerprints found on the newspaper the cannabis was wrapped in belonged to the defendant. One fingerprint belonged to the defendant's wife. The cannabis seized weighed 2,530.6 grams.
The defendant testified that he had been convicted of a felony in 1985. According to the defendant, he had given Presthus some sunglasses for resale, and they had agreed to split the profits. Presthus had also asked the defendant for help in selling cannabis, but the defendant had refused. However, the defendant introduced Presthus to someone called Jesus who worked at the marina where the defendant lived. Jesus supplied the defendant with cannabis. Jesus sometimes worked in an area where the defendant took out his garbage. On May 11, 1998, the defendant's wife took out the garbage, including the Sunday newspaper.
Following the defendant's conviction, the cause proceeded to sentencing. The evidence at sentencing showed that the defendant was 46 years old. He had six prior convictions for robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, and several drug offenses. Presthus had no prior convictions and had received probation for his conviction of possession of cannabis with the intent to deliver. The court imposed a sentence of 15 years of imprisonment on the defendant.
On appeal, the defendant argues that the trial court erred in allowing the "mere fact" of his prior felony conviction into evidence.
The Illinois Supreme Court has recently ruled that a witness should not be impeached by introducing the fact that he had a prior felony conviction without stating the offense for which he was convicted. ...