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People v. Jones

May 11, 2001

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
TRENNIS D. JONES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois No. 99--CF--650 Honorable Amy Bertani-Tomczak Judge, Presiding

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

The defendant, Trennis D. Jones, was convicted of unlawful possession of a look-alike substance with intent to distribute on public housing property (720 ILCS 570/404(b), 407(b)(3) (West 1998)). The substance was found in his pocket during a search incident to an arrest for trespassing on state-supported land (720 ILCS 5/21--5(a) (West 1998)). In this appeal, he claims that: (1) his trial counsel was ineffective for not challenging his arrest on probable cause grounds, (2) his conviction should be reduced to simple possession, and (3) the statute under which he was sentenced is unconstitutional. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

At the defendant's bench trial, police officer Robert Badertscher testified that he was working in Joliet on May 12, 1999. At approximately 11:30 p.m., he heard four or five gunshots fired from a housing project known as the McKay Street Housing Authority. He was 1 to 1½ blocks away and immediately proceeded to the area. The entrance to the project was marked with "no trespassing" signs indicating that persons without a pass were subject to arrest. Badertscher entered and saw a group of 10 males, including the defendant, standing in a street. He said, "stop, police," but the subjects scattered. The defendant initially walked away but then stopped on a sidewalk.

Badertscher asked the defendant if he lived on the premises, and the defendant said "no." During his testimony, Badertscher mentioned later asking the defendant if he had a pass. However, Badertscher's police report showed that he asked the defendant about his residence and about a pass at the same time. Defense counsel read that portion of the report on cross-examination, and Badertscher acknowledged that the questions "came together." The defendant's response to the compound inquiry was "no."

Badertscher described his subsequent actions toward the defendant as follows:

"At that time we had several other subjects running [and] I made a decision in my mind that he was under arrest for trespassing on state- supported land. [In a] search incident to arrest I started to pat him down and searched his pockets, and in his right front pants pocket I retrieved three large clear plastic bags. In each bag there was several smaller clear plastic bags with a white rocklike substance inside of them."

Badertscher later inventoried the evidence with David Stoddard, a police evidence technician. The small bags were individually wrapped packages containing a white rocklike substance. Two of the large bags contained 17 small bags each, and the remaining large bag contained 24 small bags.

Officer Stoddard testified and confirmed these numbers. He also said he tested the contents of approximately six small bags from each large bag and did not detect a controlled substance. The aggregate weight of the bags was 16.5 grams.

Raymond Micou, a manager for the Joliet Housing Authority, testified that the defendant was arrested on property belonging to the authority.

Police officer David Jackson testified that he was an undercover investigator on the Metropolitan Area Narcotics Squad. He had participated in 100 to 200 seizures of controlled substances and personally made approximately 50 "controlled buys" of such substances. His job duties included daily interaction with confidential drug informants, and 90% to 95% of his work involved dealing with cocaine.

Jackson was familiar with the housing project on McKay Street and testified that it was known for high drug and gang activity. He said the substance seized from the defendant was consistent with the appearance of cocaine. He also said the packaging of the substance was indicative of intent to distribute and that the defendant did not likely possess it for personal use.

Leslie Stegel, the defendant's mother, testified that she lived in the housing project on McKay Street. She said the defendant lived with her, although his name was not on her lease.

The judge found the defendant guilty of possessing a look-alike substance with intent to distribute on public housing property. The offense was a Class 2 felony. See 720 ILCS 570/404(b), 407(b)(3) (West 1998). However, the defendant met the criteria of section 5--5--3(c)(8) of the Unified Code of Corrections (the Code) (730 ILCS 5/1--1--1 et seq. (West 1998)), which provides for mandatory Class X sentencing. The judge thus sentenced him to 11 years in prison ...


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