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People v. Moreno

September 4, 2002


Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 00CF317 Honorable Leo J. Zappa, Jr., Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Steigmann


In July 2000, a jury convicted defendant, Manuel Moreno, of cannabis trafficking (720 ILCS 550/5.1(a) (West 2000)) and manufacture or delivery of more than 5,000 grams of a controlled substance containing cannabis (720 ILCS 550/5(g) (West 2000)). The trial court later sentenced him to 13 years in prison for cannabis trafficking and 6 years in prison for manufacture or delivery of cannabis, with those sentences to run concurrently. The court also awarded defendant 219 days' credit for time served prior to sentencing and ordered him to pay a $25 Crime Stoppers fee.

Defendant appeals, arguing that (1) as a matter of law, he cannot be guilty of cannabis trafficking because (a) that offense is "complete" when the cannabis enters Illinois, and (b) the State presented no evidence connecting him to the cannabis at, or prior to, that point in time; (2) the prosecutor misstated the law on accountability during rebuttal closing argument; (3) the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of manufacture or delivery of cannabis; (4) he is entitled to an additional day of sentencing credit; and (5) the trial court lacked authority to order him to pay $25 to Crime Stoppers. We affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand with directions.


The evidence at defendant's July 2000 trial showed that in March 2000, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol informed the Illinois State Police that (1) in the course of a traffic stop, they had discovered approximately 450 pounds of cannabis stowed in a U-Haul truck en route to Springfield, Illinois; and (2) the couriers had agreed to cooperate in making a controlled delivery. Oklahoma authorities then transported the U-Haul, the cannabis, and the two couriers, Javier Chavez and Reuben Corona, to Illinois State Police headquarters in Springfield.

After interviewing Chavez and Corona, Illinois authorities rented two adjoining rooms at the Ramada Limited hotel (Ramada) on Toronto Road in Springfield. One room was used as the couriers' hotel room and the adjoining room was used by surveillance personnel. Audio and video recorders were placed in the couriers' room, and Chavez wore a microphone. The U-Haul containing the cannabis was parked in the Ramada parking lot and was equipped with an electronic "kill switch," which enabled the police to control whether it would run.

Illinois State Police trooper Michael Luster testified that at around 10 or 11 a.m. on March 22, 2000, Chavez called his contact in Texas and told him that he had arrived in Springfield and rented a room at the Ramada. Between 4:30 and 5 p.m., defendant and Manuel Leyva arrived at the hotel room. Luster observed the room via video monitor. After about 45 minutes of discussion, Chavez, Leyva, and defendant left the room and went to the U-Haul. Luster could not see what happened at the U-Haul, but he could hear that they were trying to start it. They then returned to the hotel room and decided that they would have to return with a different vehicle. Leyva and defendant then left together.

Later that evening, Luster saw Leyva return to the hotel room alone and instruct Chavez and Corona to unload the cannabis from the U-Haul into a Dodge Caravan (Caravan) that was parked next to the U-Haul. After they loaded the Caravan, Chavez was to walk to a nearby McDonald's, at which point Leyva would have someone else drive the Caravan away. At some point, Corona left the room, ostensibly to get a Coke, and met with Luster, who gave him the key to the U-Haul.

After Chavez and Corona moved the cannabis, they went back inside the hotel and gave the Caravan keys to Luster. Luster instructed Chavez to go to McDonald's. Luster was then informed via radio that as Chavez walked toward McDonald's, Justin Moon approached and entered the Caravan. At that time, the arrest signal was given.

Springfield police detective George T. Bonnett testified that he was conducting surveillance outside the Ramada on March 22, 2000. He saw a black Mustang and a green Yukon arrive at approximately the same time. He saw the people in the Mustang (later identified as defendant and Leyva) get out of the car and talk "for a bit" with the people in the Yukon. Then defendant and Leyva went back to the Mustang and left the area.

Bonnett learned via police radio that both vehicles "went over to the Hardee[']s parking lot, met over there," and then the Mustang returned to the Ramada and the Yukon drove around the parking lot of the Ramada and the surrounding businesses.

Leland Grove police sergeant Mark Gleason testified that he was a member of the arrest team on March 22, 2000. He identified Michael Mohan as the driver of the Yukon and Moon as the passenger. About 45 minutes after the Mustang and the Yukon arrived at the Ramada, Gleason saw Chavez and Leyva try to start the U-Haul. He did not see defendant near the U-Haul.

Chavez testified that prior to March 22, 2000, he lived in El Paso, Texas. In March 2000, he made an agreement with a man identified in the record only as "Manny" pursuant to which Chavez would be "in charge" of getting 400 pounds of marijuana from El Paso to Springfield in exchange for $40,000. After Chavez and Manny made this agreement, Chavez called Corona, whom he had known for several years, and asked him to rent a U-Haul truck for him. Chavez and Corona picked up the U-Haul and met Leyva at an El Paso supermarket. Chavez turned the U-Haul over to Leyva and a couple other people who drove it away to load it. They returned the loaded U-haul to Chavez, who left for Springfield with Corona and one other passenger, a female friend of Corona's.

In Oklahoma, police pulled the U-Haul over for a traffic violation and discovered the cannabis. Chavez and Corona agreed to cooperate with the police, and Chavez called his contact in Texas to explain that they were delayed in Oklahoma due to a mechanical problem with the U-Haul. Oklahoma authorities then transported Chavez and Corona to Illinois State Police headquarters in Springfield. Chavez told Illinois police that he had been instructed to rent a hotel room and call his contact in Texas when he arrived in Springfield.

At around 11 a.m. on March 22, 2000, Chavez called his Texas contact from the Ramada and told him that they had arrived in Springfield. Several hours later, Leyva called Chavez and told him that he was on his way to the Ramada. When Leyva arrived at the hotel room, defendant was with him. Chavez and Leyva began discussing the delivery of the contents of the U-Haul. During the conversation, Chavez referred to the contents of the U-Haul as "mota," which is slang for cannabis. Chavez and Leyva disagreed on the amount Chavez was to be paid, and Leyva insisted that the amount agreed upon was $30,000. Leyva also was not satisfied with where the U-Haul was parked. Defendant was present during the entire conversation, which lasted under an hour. Corona left the room "from time to time."

While Leyva was there, Chavez went out to try to move the U-Haul. He returned to the room and told Leyva that it would not start. Leyva accused Chavez of being afraid to move the U-Haul, and they went outside together. After Leyva tried and failed to start the U-Haul, they returned to the room and discussed what to do. Chavez and Leyva ultimately agreed that they would get a "Caravan" and return after sundown to be less conspicuous. Chavez first testified that defendant was present during this conversation, but he later testified that he could not recall whether defendant was in the room after he and Leyva had tried to start the U-Haul.

A couple of hours later, Leyva returned to the hotel room, handed Chavez the keys to the Caravan, which was parked outside, and told him to transfer the contents of the U-Haul into the Caravan. Leyva also told Chavez that he would be at the McDonald's across the street when everything was ready. After retrieving the padlock for the U-Haul from the police, Chavez and Corona went out to the parking lot. Chavez arrived at the U-Haul before Corona. When Corona arrived, he was carrying "some drinks," and he told Chavez not to move anything because the police were at a nearby gas station.

After loading the Caravan, Chavez went into the hotel, gave the Caravan and U-Haul keys to the police, and walked to McDonald's. As he reached the dining area, "everybody was arrested."

Corona testified that on March 21, 2000, he used his father's credit card to rent a U-haul truck with Chavez, who did not have a credit card. His testimony regarding what happened in El Paso and his cooperation with Oklahoma and Illinois police was largely consistent with that of other witnesses.

Corona further testified that Leyva and defendant arrived at the hotel room at around 4:30 p.m. When Leyva came into the room, he introduced defendant to Chavez and Corona but did not explain who he was. Discussions were primarily between Chavez and Leyva. They discussed whether "all the mota was there." Corona heard the word "mota" used a couple of times. The word "marijuana" was used "at least once." Chavez and Leyva argued about whether Chavez was to be paid $30,000 or $40,000. Corona was not present for the entire conversation because he left the room a few times to confer with the police officers in the next room.

At one point, Chavez gave Leyva the keys to the U-Haul, and Leyva attempted to start it. Defendant went with them to the U-Haul and looked under the hood. Back in the hotel room, they discussed how they would transport the cannabis, and Leyva and defendant then left to get another vehicle.

Later that evening, Leyva and defendant returned with the Caravan, and they both stopped at the hotel room before going to McDonald's. After they left, Corona left the hotel to get some chocolate milk from the convenience store, and on his way back to the hotel, defendant, who had walked back over from McDonald's, approached Corona and said, "Don't move the pot right now because there is a cop car right there," referring to a patrol car at the gas station. The patrol car pulled away about five minutes later, and Corona and Chavez transferred the cannabis from the U-Haul to the Caravan. After they loaded the Caravan, Corona saw Moon get behind the wheel of the Caravan, and the arrests began.

The jury heard audiotape recordings of the conversations recorded by Chavez' microphone and the recording devices planted in the hotel room. The jury also watched videotape of the hotel room. Because the recordings were primarily in Spanish, the jury was allowed to follow translated transcripts of the tapes while the tapes were played. Maria Velasco and Sofia Stanford prepared the translation. Velasco and Stanford both testified that in preparing the transcripts it was sometimes difficult to determine who was speaking. Stanford testified that she was responsible for the speaker identification in the transcripts and explained that after viewing the videotape to identify each individual's voice, she was able to distinguish the voices on the audiotapes. Where she could not identify the speaker she inserted a question mark instead of a name. Although the tapes were admitted in evidence, the transcripts were not allowed in the jury room. Chavez testified that he had reviewed the transcripts and noted that many statements were attributed to defendant that were not made by him.

The transcript of the recorded conversation that occurred in the hotel room when Chavez, Corona, Leyva, and defendant were present is included in the record on appeal. That transcript shows that during the argument between Chavez and Leyva regarding how much Chavez was to be paid, Corona said "that in El Paso the other Manuel had said they were going to give us $40,000."

Defendant testified that on March 22, 2000, he was living in Beardstown with his wife, her brother, and her parents. He was scheduled to work at AutoZone at around 2 p.m. and had to drop his son off with his son's mother in Springfield. Before he left for Springfield, he received a phone call from Efraim Ebarra, a former co-worker. Ebarra asked defendant to "help somebody translate on some things." Ebarra "said that he had a friend that--that was coming to Springfield that had some problems with the truck on the way up" and Ebarra's friend did not speak English. When asked if he was given any other instructions regarding helping Ebarra's friend, defendant replied, "He just asked me to help him give him a ride maybe if needed." Ebarra told defendant that the man's name was Manuel Leyva and that Leyva would meet him at the home of defendant's brother, Mike Moreno. Ebarra told defendant that he would be paid "somewhere in the vicinity of $10, $15 an hour maybe." At some point in the morning, defendant called in sick to work because he was not feeling well.

After defendant dropped off his son, he went to Mike's house, where he met Leyva for the first time. Leyva told him that he wanted defendant to take him to the Ramada. Leyva did not know his way around Springfield very well. They did not discuss what they would do at the Ramada, whether defendant would be paid, or whether defendant was a mechanic.

They left Mike's house in Leyva's black Mustang and proceeded to Mohan's house. When asked why, defendant testified, "He just said to ask him to translate I guess." When they arrived, Moon was also there. Defendant did not know either Moon or Mohan well, although he had gone to school with Mohan. Defendant translated a conversation in which Leyva told Moon and Mohan to follow them to the Ramada to help unload something. Defendant then drove Leyva (in Leyva's Mustang) to the Ramada, and Moon and Mohan followed in a green Yukon. Leyva and defendant did not converse much on the way to the Ramada. When they arrived, Leyva told Moon and Mohan to wait and asked defendant to go inside with him.

Leyva and defendant went to a room number that Leyva had written on a piece of paper. Leyva knocked a couple of times, but no one answered. Leyva tried to make a call on his cell phone but was unable to make a connection. They left the hotel and went to Hardee's so that Leyva could use a pay phone. Moon and Mohan also went to Hardee's. Defendant was not present when Leyva made his phone call. After the call, Leyva asked defendant to take him back ...

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