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People v. Dexter

March 21, 2002

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
RASHAAD J. DEXTER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 99-CF-3100 Honorable K. Craig Peterson, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN.

Released for publication March 27, 2002.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
RASHAAD J. DEXTER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 99-CF-3100 Honorable K. Craig Peterson, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN.

PUBLISHED

 After a bench trial, defendant, Rashaad J. Dexter, was found guilty of unlawfully possessing, with the intent to deliver, 1 gram or more but less than 15 grams of a substance containing cocaine, a Class 1 felony (720 ILCS 570/401(c)(2) (West 1998)). However, because the trial court found that defendant committed the offense while he was on a public way within 1,000 feet of a public park, defendant was convicted of a Class X felony under section 407(b)(1) of the Illinois Controlled Substances Act (section 407(b)(1)) (720 ILCS 570/407(b)(1) (West 1998)). The trial court sentenced defendant to six years and six months in prison.

Defendant appeals, arguing that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the offense while he was on a "public way." We agree, reduce defendant's conviction to the lesser included Class 1 felony, and remand for resentencing.

We summarize those facts needed to frame the issue on appeal. The State's first witness, Rockford police officer Brian Shimaitis, testified as follows. At about 11:50 p.m. on November 14, 1999, Shimaitis and fellow officer Douglas Palmer were positioned directly west of and across the street from a privately owned apartment building at 1028 Kishwaukee. A police tactical team was nearby. The police suspected that the building was a drug house. A sidewalk about 20 feet long ran from the public sidewalk toward the building; two or three steps then led to a concrete porch pad which in turn led to the main door, which was made of glass and was located between two apartments. Plants were also on either side of the door about two feet out from the building.

When Shimaitis first arrived, four men, including defendant, were in the "stairwell area" of the building. Within about 20 minutes, 8 people came up one at a time to the building. Each spoke to one of the four men, made a hand-to-hand exchange, and left. As the tactical team moved in, Shimaitis and Palmer started across the street toward the house.

Shimaitis testified on direct examination that, when the tactical team started to move, defendant was standing outside the doorway at 1028 Kishwaukee. On cross-examination, Shimaitis added that, just before he and Palmer got across the street, defendant was standing left of the front door, leaning against a window. Shimaitis then testified that defendant was standing "up on the concrete pad [and] leaning against the building."

After Shimaitis and Palmer crossed the street, Shimaitis saw that defendant was on the ground, fighting with two other officers. Shimaitis, Palmer, and three other officers entered the building and escorted people from the stairway foyer to the outside. When Shimaitis exited the building, defendant was handcuffed outside.

Officer Randy Berke testified as follows. At about 11:50 p.m. on November 14, 1999, he was with the tactical unit on the northeast corner of the apartment building. Berke could not see the front of the building. Palmer and Shimaitis radioed that the target of the surveillance was standing in the doorway. After about 20 minutes, the tactical officers approached the building. Two officers entered. Four or five seconds later, Berke and two other officers approached the front entrance. Defendant was standing "right by the doorway." Berke said "Rockford police." Defendant ran south, dropping a paper bag. Berke soon helped to tackle defendant and retrieved the bag, which defendant had dropped "more towards the building side" of the bushes than to the "street side." Later, Berke ascertained that a sign marking a public park was 420 feet from where defendant was arrested.

Officer Palmer testified that, from his surveillance post, he saw about eight people approach the apartment building, "go into the stairwell foyer area," and make hand-to-hand transactions with defendant while defendant stood "in front of a little side window next to the door." After Palmer and ...


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