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People v. Shevock

January 8, 2003


Appeal from Circuit Court of Champaign County No. 00CF78 Honorable Thomas J. Difanis, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Knecht

A jury convicted defendant, Paul A. Shevock, of unlawful possession of a methamphetamine manufacturing chemical with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine (720 ILCS 570/401(a)(6.6)(A) (West 2000)). The trial court sentenced him to a 10-year prison term.

Defendant appeals, contending that (1) he was not found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and (2) the trial court erred in admitting into evidence content labels on over-the-counter medication boxes in violation of the rule against hearsay. We affirm.


Officer Geoffrey Coon of the Champaign police department testified that in the early morning hours of January 10, 2000, he was on duty and patrolling the area near the Microtel Inn in Champaign, Illinois. He patrolled that area frequently due to numerous recent calls on drug activity and fights. That morning he noticed a car backed into a parking spot in a corner near a garbage Dumpster, away from other vehicles. The car did not have a front license plate. He looked in the vehicle and discovered two red plastic gas containers, a white plastic bag with three one-gallon size Igloo-type coolers and numerous hanging and bottled air fresheners. He noted a Tennessee rear license plate. He compared the room registration with the license-plate registration and found two different names. He discussed his findings with other officers, and the drug task force was notified.

Members of the task force came to defendant's room. Defendant cooperated with the officers in the search of his room and his car. The evidence at trial was uncontradicted that defendant possessed 23 boxes of Sudafed antihistamine medication, two canisters of salt, razor blades, pipes, tubes, valves, a glass jar wrapped in duct tape, Mason jars with lids, a pan, a funnel, coffee filters, a turkey baster, lithium batteries, a hot-plate heating coil, and starter fluid. All of these items were in his motel room. Police also found a chunky substance wrapped in tinfoil, which was later identified as methamphet-amine. Defendant's automobile contained several one-gallon size thermal bottles and several types of air fresheners confirming what Officer Coon had seen.

Illinois State Police special agent William Kroncke testified he was certified by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration as a clandestine methamphetamine laboratory specialist. He has been involved in at least 50 investigations involving clandestine methamphetamine labs, and during his certification training he was required to "cook" a batch of methamphetamine. He stated the items necessary to manufacture methamphetamine include lithium, usually obtained from camera batteries; anhydrous ammonia, a highly dangerous and strong-smelling liquid that needs to be handled with surgical-type masks and gloves, and that is usually obtained from farmers, who use it as fertilizer; pseudoephedrine or ephedrine, found in over-the-counter cold medications; starting fluid; salt; coffee filters; various plastic containers used for storing chemicals such as anhydrous ammonia; clear plastic tubing; and a heating source. The manufacturing process included a chemical reaction between the anhydrous ammonia and the lithium combined with the pseudoephedrine or ephedrine after being heated. Salt was also used in the formula. Tubing and filters as well as a turkey baster were necessary to remove impurities from the resulting methamphetamine.

Agent Kroncke was present in defendant's motel room and stated he believed, due to the contents of the room, it could have been a clandestine methamphetamine laboratory. Agent Kroncke further stated there is a formula used to predict how much methamphetamine could be yielded from a certain quantity of Sudafed. The amount of Sudafed defendant possessed would yield between 33 and 51 grams of methamphetamine.

The label of a box of Sudafed stated its active ingredient was pseudoephedrine. The box was admitted into evidence over defendant's objection.

Officer Scott Swan testified defendant told him at the time his motel room was searched there might be a couple items in the room that would test positive for methamphetamine residue. Further evidence at trial included the fact defendant was a parole violator from Tennessee and registered at the motel under an assumed name.

Defendant sought a directed verdict, based in part on the court's erroneous admission of the Sudafed box and label. The trial court denied the motion.

Defendant testified he was from Tennessee and had come to Champaign to look for work. As he was between jobs, he had moved out of his house and moved all of his belongings to the house of a friend for storage. During his last trip through his house, he loaded the last bit of odds and ends left into the trunk of his car. He had then traveled to Champaign.

Defendant explained that in addition to the items enumerated in the State's testimony, he also had with him a flashlight, a coffee pot, silverware and kitchen utensils, clothing and personal hygiene items, towels, three cartons of cigarettes, and seven four-packs of Boost, a nutritional supplement drink. He denied having manufactured methamphetamine or knowing how to do so. He admitted he purchased some in Tennessee and then smoked some while on the trip to Illinois. Defendant admitted being on parole in Tennessee and, because he could not legally leave the state, he used a false name while checking into the motel.

Defendant then gave explanations for his possession of each of the items that the State maintained were necessary for the manufacture of methamphetamine. He explained the Sudafed was for personal use as he took handfuls of it daily to keep himself awake because he had a fear of sleeping and not waking up. This fear arose after experiencing the implantation of a pacemaker when he was found unconscious by a friend following a long period of sleep and unconsciousness. If the friend had not ...

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