The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Quinn
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County
Honorable Thomas Tucker, Judge Presiding.
Following a bench trial, defendants Heriberto Juarbe and Ignancio Soto were convicted of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver (720 ILCS 570/401(a)(2)(D) (West 1998)), and sentenced to prison terms of 22 years and 18 years, respectively. In this consolidated appeal, defendants contend that the trial court erred in: (1) denying their motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence; (2) admitting other crimes evidence; and (3) finding that Soto was proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
Prior to trial, defendants filed a motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence, alleging that the police officers lacked probable cause to stop Juarbe's vehicle. Defendants also alleged that they were seized and detained an unreasonable amount of time and that Juarbe's vehicle was searched without his consent or, if he did consent, the search exceeded the scope of the consent given. At the hearing on the motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence, Juarbe testified that on March 13, 1997, he was driving a truck he owned with Soto as a passenger, headed east on Frontage Road in Westchester, Illinois. Juarbe testified that when he reached Mannheim Road, he stopped at a red light. When the light turned green, he drove through the intersection to the entrance ramp leading on to the eastbound Eisenhower Expressway. As Juarbe exited the expressway at Harlem Avenue, he noticed an unmarked police car with its lights activated. Juarbe testified that he did not think the police car was following him, but when the police car signaled him to stop, he did so immediately. When the officer, Sergeant Kevin Keag, asked for Juarbe's license and registration, he provided both. When Juarbe asked the officer why he was stopped, Keag did not respond and directed Juarbe and Soto to exit the vehicle immediately. Juarbe admitted that he gave Keag consent to search the vehicle.
Subsequently, Officer Dominic Luciano arrived. Keag searched Juarbe's vehicle while Luciano searched both Juarbe and Soto. Juarbe estimated that the search of the vehicle took approximately 10 minutes. Keag then gave Soto the keys in order to move the vehicle, and after doing so, Soto was placed into another squad car.
Juarbe testified that an hour passed from the time he was first placed in the police car until a narcotics detector dog arrived. On cross-examination, Juarbe admitted that his vehicle had darkly tinted windows and two separate trap compartments in both of the rear seat armrests.
Sergeant Keag, an 18-year veteran of the Westchester police department, testified that in April 1996 he became involved in a narcotics investigation with the Chicago police department gang unit, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) task force and agents of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), who were investigating an illegal narcotics organization operated by Anselmo Zepeda.
Keag testified that he was asked to conduct surveillance of the apartment of Zepeda's girlfriend, who lived in Westchester. Over the course of several months, Keag watched for Zepeda to visit the apartment, recorded license plate numbers of vehicles that visited the apartment, and checked the ownership of those vehicles.
On October 21, 1996, Keag became aware of another apartment located at 22 Acera Drive in Hillside, Illinois. Upon learning that this apartment was a "stash house" leased to Zepeda, Keag testified that he watched this apartment approximately 100 times between October 21, 1996, and March 13, 1997. During his surveillance, Keag observed vehicles arriving and leaving within five minutes at various times of the day and night. Keag wrote down the license plate numbers and types of vehicles that visited the apartment and ran a check of the license plate numbers to obtain information on the vehicle owners. Keag discovered that a vehicle registered to Juarbe visited that apartment approximately eight times between December 6, 1996, and March 13, 1997, the date of Juarbe's arrest. Keag testified that Juarbe's vehicle was a two-tone gold Chevrolet Tahoe bearing "peace" license plates. Keag also observed a vehicle registered in Soto's name at the apartment approximately five or six times from October 22, 1996, until the date of Soto's arrest. Keag testified, however, that he did not actually see Soto at the location prior to March 13, 1997, and that while he recognized Juarbe, he did not recognize Soto when he stopped Juarbe's vehicle.
On March 13, 1997, at approximately 12:15 p.m., Keag testified that he searched for Zepeda at 22 Acera Drive because there was a warrant for his arrest. As Keag watched the apartment, he saw Juarbe's vehicle parked there and, later, saw Juarbe and Soto leave the apartment together. Juarbe held what appeared to be a white paper bag to his chest while he continually looked back and forth until he got into his vehicle. Juarbe was in the driver's seat and Soto was in the front passenger side of the vehicle. Keag testified that once they entered the vehicle, he could not see inside because the windows were tinted. Keag then drove his unmarked squad car to Roosevelt Road and Oakridge and waited until defendants drove away from the apartment. Keag followed defendants and testified that he did so because he wanted to find out where they were going and what was in the bag that Juarbe carried from the apartment. Keag followed defendants from Oakridge to Harrison until defendants turned right, at which point Keag lost sight of the vehicle. At this point, Keag contacted Officer Luciano and directed him to travel the Eisenhower Expressway in search of Juarbe's vehicle. Keag directed Luciano to "go by Mannheim 290 and see if [he saw] a Suburban vehicle coming with a peace vehicle." Keag then told Luciano to "see if [he] can knock it down." Keag testified that the meaning of his words were to follow the vehicle and look for some reason to stop it.
Keag testified that he caught up with defendants at the intersection of Harrison and Mannheim. According to Keag, he was approximately six cars behind Juarbe's vehicle, which was the first one stopped at the red light. As Keag waited for the light to turn green, he saw Juarbe's vehicle begin to slowly move through the intersection while the light was still red. After Juarbe's vehicle ran the red light, Keag lost sight of it as defendants drove toward the entrance ramp to the expressway. Once Keag caught sight of the vehicle again, he followed it. Keag also contacted IRS Agent Lynette Redmer, informed her that he had seen a traffic violation and that he was going to stop the vehicle. Keag testified that Agent Redmer approved of the stop.
When defendants exited the expressway at Harlem Avenue, Keag moved directly behind Juarbe's vehicle, activated his lights and stopped the vehicle at approximately 12:30 p.m. Once he approached the vehicle, Keag asked Juarbe to exit the vehicle and to retrieve his driver's license and registration. Juarbe complied. Keag then asked Juarbe if he had any drugs or weapons in the vehicle, to which Juarbe responded that he did not. Keag testified that he asked Juarbe if he could look in the vehicle and told Juarbe that he observed him run a red light at Mannheim Road. Juarbe nodded his head affirmatively. Keag testified on cross-examination that he did not note in his report that he informed Juarbe of the traffic violation.
Keag also asked Soto to exit the vehicle and to show identification. When Soto showed Keag his identification, Keag recognized the name as the owner of one of the vehicles he had seen parked in front of the apartment at 22 Acera Drive. Keag testified on cross-examination that he did not include this fact in his report.
Keag walked to the passenger side of the vehicle and searched under the seats and dash, above the dash and alongside the panels, knocking to find out if there were any hollow spots contained in the panels. Keag testified that he was looking for traps in the vehicle because the package he had seen was not visible and the organization he was investigating was known to use trap vehicles. Keag did observe two white paper towels sitting on the back seat on the passenger side of the vehicle. He then searched the driver's side of the vehicle in the same manner. This search took approximately 10 minutes. As traffic was backing up, Keag had Juarbe move his vehicle just west of Harlem Avenue while Keag followed in his unmarked squad car. Officer Luciano and defendant Soto followed in Luciano's marked police car.
At approximately 12:47 p.m., Keag radioed his dispatcher and requested a dog to search the vehicle. The dispatcher responded that he was unable to get a dog to the scene. Keag instructed the dispatcher to contact the Illinois State Police. At approximately 1 p.m., State Trooper Pignatello arrived with a dog, which began the search by sniffing the outside of the vehicle. The dog alerted on the rear doors of the vehicle. After being led into the interior of the vehicle, the dog alerted at the armrests in the backseat of the vehicle.
Trooper Pignatello retrieved a screwdriver and opened the armrest. Several bundles of money were found. When Trooper Pignatello opened the passenger side armrest in the backseat, he discovered two kilograms of cocaine sitting on top of more bundles of money.
Keag informed Luciano of the money and drugs discovered. Keag testified that Officer Luciano told him that he saw Soto put his head in his hands and that he uttered an obscenity. Keag testified on cross-examination that Soto's use of the expletive was not included in his report because he did not hear him say it, but he was told this information by Luciano.
According to Keag, defendants were taken into custody at approximately 1:12 p.m. and officially booked at the police ...