Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 99 CR 19653 Honorable Henry Simmons, Judge Presiding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Gallagher
Defendant was charged with criminal drug conspiracy and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver (cocaine) from an arrest on March 29, 1999, after officers discovered 30 kilograms of cocaine in defendant's vehicle while conducting a traffic stop.
Following a hearing, the trial court granted defendant's motion to suppress evidence on April 25, 2001. On appeal, the State contends that the trial court's ruling was manifestly erroneous in that the police had probable cause to search defendant's vehicle without a warrant due to a reasonable belief that defendant was transporting narcotics. Although defendant has not filed a brief on appeal, we will consider the appeal under the principles set forth in First Capital Mortgage Corp. v. Talandis Construction Corp., 63 Ill. 2d 128, 131-33, 345 N.E.2d 493, 494-95 (1976). We reverse the trial court and find that the police had probable cause to stop defendant and conduct a search of her vehicle based on the information gathered from a lengthy narcotics investigation of defendant and several other suspects.
The State asserts that the police investigation revealed that defendant was involved in a narcotics distribution ring with Keith Presley. Due to the circumstances of this case, a full recitation of the lengthy investigation is necessary.
Chicago police officer Timothy Cerven testified that on November 24, 1998, he and Investigator Thomas Martin were conducting surveillance of Keith Presley at 10025 South May Street in Chicago pursuant to an investigation by the State's Attorney's narcotics strike force. Cerven and Martin were in separate vehicles. Cerven testified that throughout the afternoon he observed several persons going back and forth from their cars to the house.
At approximately 7:20 p.m., several men removed a Tide soap box from the trunk of a purple Nissan and carried it into the residence. At 7:39 p.m. Cerven observed a black, two-door Ford Explorer park in front of the residence. The license plate on the Explorer was registered to defendant. Cervan stated that a woman exited the car and removed two large Tide soap boxes, approximately two feet by two feet, from the rear hatch of the vehicle. The woman then walked with the two Tide boxes, one under each arm "like they were light," into the residence. At 8:09 p.m., the woman and a man exited the house. The man carried a Tide box in each hand. Cerven testified that the Tide boxes seemed to be "heavier than when they went in," because the man appeared to struggle as he walked with the boxes. The man placed the two boxes in the rear hatch of the Explorer and the woman drove away alone. Cerven remained at the residence while other officers followed the Explorer. On cross-examination, Cerven stated that although he has been shown pictures of defendant numerous times since November 24, he has not identified her as the woman he saw at 10025 South May.
Martin testified that he was approximately 15 feet from the Explorer when he observed the woman and the man putting the boxes in the vehicle. Martin followed the woman driving the Explorer to Effingham, Illinois, until she drove to Interstate 70 and headed towards St. Louis, where the surveillance was terminated. In court, Martin identified defendant as the woman he saw on November 24, 1998.
Martin also testified to surveillance conducted on December 30, 1998, at 1241 East 168th Street in South Holland, Illinois. The surveillance was also part of the narcotics investigation of Presley. At approximately 1:50 p.m., Martin observed a maroon, four-door Ford Explorer pull up to the house. The maroon Explorer was registered to Elix Duncan. Martin saw a man that he later identified as Duncan get out of the vehicle and go into the residence with a small object in his hands. A short time later the man returned to the Explorer, retrieved a plastic bag that had some kind of brick-shaped object in it, and walked back into the house.
While Martin was at the East 168th Street address, other officers were conducting surveillance at the 10025 South May Street address. These officers radioed Martin at 2:15 p.m. and advised him that a man had arrived at the South May Street address in a gray Jaguar. The man opened the trunk of the Jaguar, took out a large gym bag, walked across the street to a green Honda and put the bag in the Honda's trunk. The man then got into the Honda and drove to the Calumet Expressway, where officers terminated their surveillance. Approximately five minutes later, Martin observed the green Honda pull into the driveway at 1241 East 168th Street. After the driver sounded the horn, the garage door went up, the Honda pulled into the garage, and the garage door closed. The Honda pulled out of the garage about 20 minutes later. Martin testified that when the Honda pulled out of the garage there was a box in the front passenger seat that was not there when the Honda first pulled into the garage.
At that time, Cerven was conducting surveillance at a strip mall on 159th Street. Martin radioed Cerven that the Honda left East 168th Street with a box in the front seat. Cerven then saw the Honda pull into the strip mall parking lot and park next to a maroon Mazda. The driver of the Honda and the driver of the Mazda transferred the box to the Mazda. When both cars left, Cerven and other officers followed the Mazda. The other officers stopped the Mazda on Bishop Street near the 111th Street exit on Interstate 57 south. Cerven returned to his surveillance at 159th Street. Thirty kilograms of cocaine were found in the box in the Mazda The driver of the Mazda was identified as Christopher Trammel. The driver of the Honda was later identified as Keith Presley. Presley was not arrested at this time.
Approximately 3 p.m., Martin observed the Honda return to the East 168th Street address and enter the garage. Around 3:30 or 3:45 p.m., the garage door opened and Duncan backed his maroon Explorer into the garage. Martin saw several industrial-sized soap boxes inside the garage. Duncan opened the rear hatch of the Explorer and Martin observed "some type of activity" ...