The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wolfson
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. Honorable Colleen McSweeney Moore, Judge Presiding.
If anything, Robert Jones was a model of consistency. The evidence in this case showed he used the same car with the same license plate when he committed three similar armed robberies within four hours in the same general area of Chicago.
He was tried for the first of the three armed robberies. The State was allowed to introduce evidence of the other two armed robberies in order to prove his identity in the charged offense.
Following a bench trial, the defendant was found guilty of the armed robbery of Elaine Ramos Rackos and sentenced to serve a term of natural life imprisonment as an habitual offender pursuant to the provisions of the Habitual Criminal Act (720 ILCS 5/33B-1 et seq. (West 1994)).
The defendant appeals, contending (1) the trial court erred in allowing the State to present evidence of other crimes, and (2) the mandatory life sentence provisions of the Habitual Criminal Act (the "Act") (720 ILCS 5/33B-1 et seq. (West 1994)) are unconstitutional under Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435, 120 S. Ct. 2348 (2000). We affirm.
Before trial, the trial court made a ruling that is the basis of the first issue on appeal: the trial court said, over defense objection, it would allow the State to present evidence the defendant used a white Ford Tempo with license plate number LWJ 457 in the uncharged armed robberies of Tim Sallee and Sutha Suesuntisook. The Ford Tempo was alleged to be the same car the defendant used four hours earlier in his armed robbery of Elaine Ramos Rackos. The robberies of Sallee and Suesuntisook would come in as other uncharged crimes evidence, relevant to the defendant's "identity and presence" at the scene of the robbery of Rackos.
At trial, Elaine Ramos Rackos testified that on March 1, 1995, at about 8:00 p.m., she was walking to her car after shopping at the Target store located at 2656 North Elston. As she was putting her shopping bags into her car, she heard a car stop suddenly behind her. She turned and saw the defendant get out of his car and run toward her with a gun in his hand. Although the defendant had partially covered the gun with a "white-ish yellow towel," Rackos could see its barrel.
The defendant ran up to Rackos and pointed the gun at her stomach. He said, "Don't move. Don't do anything," and demanded money from her. Rackos said the defendant was right in her face and the parking lot was "very well lit."
Rackos opened her wallet and gave the defendant about $70. After she told the defendant she had no more money, the defendant ran to his car and drove away. As he drove away, Rackos looked at his car, specifically its license plate, then ran into Target and told the security people, "I was mugged in the parking lot." She kept repeating the license plate number over and over.
When police arrived at the Target store, Rackos gave them the license plate number "LWJ 457."
Rackos testified that one month later, on April 3, 1995, she went to Area 5 to view a lineup. When the curtains were opened, she recognized the defendant. "That is him," she said. She identified Robert Jones as the man who robbed her.
On cross-examination, Rackos insisted that she had seen a gun during the robbery. She said, "He had a gun underneath a towel." She denied telling the police she saw an "unknown, possible handgun barrel." She insisted she had told the police a man with a gun robbed her.
Rackos also denied she told the police the man who robbed her was "30 years old." She said she was not that specific. She said she told the police, "The man was in his 30's." And she denied she told the police the man who robbed her was exactly six feet tall. She recalled she told them "he was taller than me. *** He was more than 6 feet tall."
Rackos admitted she did not tell the police the man who robbed her had a scar or a defined mustache. Instead, she told them, "He had some sort of marks on his face" and "stubbles."
Tim Sallee drove fuel tankers for W. Smith Cartage Company. His job was to deliver gasoline to gas stations. On March 1, 1995, at about 11:55 p.m., roughly four hours after the Rackos robbery, Sallee was at the Gelanias Shell Service Station on the corner of Halsted and Wrightwood. He was unloading gasoline from his fuel tanker when a man he identified as the defendant Robert Jones robbed him at gunpoint.
Sallee testified the first time he saw the defendant was when the defendant drove into the gas station from Halsted. He was driving a Ford Tempo. He drove the Tempo past Sallee's fuel tanker, toward the gas station store, exited the gas station on Wrightwood, reentered the gas station from another driveway on Halsted, and finally stopped the car parallel to two fuel pumps next to Sallee's tanker. The defendant then exited the Tempo, stepped between the two fuel pumps, and asked Sallee for change.
Sallee told the defendant he had no change. The defendant replied, "I got something to show you," and showed Sallee a handgun. Sallee could see the grip, the chamber, and part of the barrel. Sallee said the defendant used a "dirty old yellow kitchen towel" to cover part of the handgun.
The defendant, pointing the handgun at Sallee's hip, said, "Give me the money." Before Sallee could respond, the defendant put his left hand on Sallee's right shoulder and turned him toward the fuel tanker. He forced Sallee to face the tanker and rest his hands on the rocker panel of the tanker's door.
The defendant, holding the gun in his right hand, used his left hand to frisk Sallee's coat pockets, front chest shirt pockets, waistband, and front pants pockets. The defendant then reached into Sallee's left rear pants pocket and removed Sallee's wallet. He handed Sallee his wallet and ordered Sallee to open it. Sallee did.
Sallee gave the defendant five dollars ($5) from his wallet. The defendant then asked "where the truck money was." Sallee responded, "We don't carry money on the trucks." The defendant replied, "Don't make me pop you." Sallee told him ...