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People v. Chrisman

October 29, 2002

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MICHAEL CHRISMAN AND KEVIN BARBIC, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Johnson County. No. 00-CF-82 Honorable James R. Williamson, Judge, presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Kuehn

Amended and Released for Publication November 12, 2002.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MICHAEL CHRISMAN AND KEVIN BARBIC, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Johnson County. No. 00-CF-82 Honorable James R. Williamson, Judge, presiding.

Attorneys for Appellants Daniel M. Kirwan, Deputy Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender, 730 E. Illinois Hwy. 15, P.O. Box 2430, Mt. Vernon, IL 62864-0047; Curtis L. Blood, 1602 Vandalia, Collinsville, IL 62234-4459 (additional counsel for appellants)

Attorneys for Appellee Hon. Brian Trambley, State's Attorney, Johnson County Courthouse, P.O. Box 1257, Vienna, IL 62995; Norbert J. Goetten, Director, Stephen E. Norris, Deputy Director, Sharon Shanahan, Contract Attorney, Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, Route 15 East, P.O. Box 2249, Mt. Vernon, IL 62864

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Kuehn

PUBLISH

George and Michael Whittier, Kevin Barbic, Michael Chrisman, and David Hawkins found friendship back in their glory days at Bloomington Community High School in the mid-nineties. They traveled life's journeys together until sometime prior to September of 2000, when the State of Illinois removed David Hawkins from his home in Bloomington and placed him in a prison cell. We do not know precisely when or why. We do know that after a prison stint of unknown duration, Hawkins was scheduled for release from Shawnee Correctional Center (Shawnee) on the morning of September 20, 2000.

Barbic, Chrisman, and the two Whittier brothers were not fine-feathered friends. As soon as September 20, 2000, arrived, the foursome hopped into Barbic's minivan and drove the several hundred miles south, from Bloomington to Shawnee. They drove throughout the night and into the dawn for a welcomed reunion with their fallen comrade. They wanted to celebrate the moment, share in his rendevous with freedom, and take him back home to Bloomington. However, there would be no celebration that day. When the sun set on September 20, 2000, David Hawkins was the only one not confined to a jail cell.

The van arrived at Shawnee a few hours prior to Hawkins' scheduled release. Having been told that there would be a considerable wait before the release, the foursome drove to a nearby McDonald's restaurant and ate some breakfast. When they returned to the prison, George Whittier drove the minivan onto the prison grounds and parked it in the visitors' parking lot. A prison official told them to close all of the van's windows and to lock the van's doors. They complied with the request to secure their vehicle and walked to the gatehouse door in an attempt to be in the visitors' center when Hawkins was freed.

Chrisman had partied at the Lizzard Lounge in Bloomington until shortly before he, Barbic, and the Whittier brothers journeyed south to pick up Hawkins. On the way to Shawnee he slept off the effects of some rather heavy drinking. However, he still smelled of alcohol when he walked into the visitors' center. Someone reported the smell to prison officials. They summoned Johnson County deputies to search Barbic's minivan. Barbic repeatedly refused their requests for a consent to search, until he was shown a sign at the prison entrance that warned everyone that they and their cars were subject to being searched. After the authorities explained that he had no privacy right to assert when on prison grounds, Barbic opened the van and agreed to the search. The search uncovered a small bag of marijuana under the driver's seat and a half-empty bottle of cheap rum in a cooler in the back of the van. The Whittier brothers, Barbic, and Chrisman were immediately placed under arrest.

The State bypassed a prosecution for unlawful possession of cannabis and transporting open liquor in a motor vehicle, opting to charge all four travelers with the commission of two felony offenses. A two-count information was filed, charging the Whittier brothers, Barbic, and Chrisman with bringing contraband into a penal institution. The first count was predicated upon the small bag of marijuana; the second count dealt with the bottle of rum. The charges were brought under section 31A-1.1(a)(3) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (720 ILCS 5/31A-1.1(a)(3) (West 1998)), a section that covers situations where contraband is not brought into a penal institution but, rather, is placed near enough to the facility that prisoners could get their hands on it. Both counts alleged that the defendants knowingly placed contraband in such proximity to a penal institution as to give inmates access to the contraband.

George Whittier pled guilty. During the trial of Barbic and Chrisman, he was called by the defense and claimed sole ownership of the marijuana. He testified that the 11 grams seized by prison officials were all that remained from a $90-ounce purchase that he alone had made four days prior to the trip. He told the jury that no marijuana had been consumed in the van during the night's journey en route to the prison. Whittier apparently did not want to have marijuana in his pocket when he went into the prison. He ...


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