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People v. Fields

June 17, 2003


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County No. 00-CF-259 Honorable Kathryn E. Creswell, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice O'malley


Defendant, Rodney Fields, appeals from his conviction of two counts of money laundering (720 ILCS 5/29B--1 (West 2000)), following a bench trial before the circuit court of Du Page County. Defendant contends that the trial court made prejudicially erroneous evidentiary rulings during the trial, that the indictment insufficiently apprised him of the illegal conduct with which he was charged, and that the evidence presented by the State was insufficient to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the charged offenses. We agree that the indictment was fatally deficient, and we reverse.

This matter arose from defendant's purchase of two cars from Laurel Motors in Westmont. Defendant was indicted for money laundering and, on November 13, 2000, he moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the two counts were pleaded generally and without specificity. The trial court denied defendant's motion but ordered the State to provide a bill of particulars specifying the nature of the criminally derived property and its source. On November 28, 2000, the State filed its bill of particulars, stating that count I alleged money laundering in connection with the sale and financing of a 1999 Mercedes automobile and that count II alleged money laundering in connection with the sale and financing of a 2000 Mercedes automobile. The State noted that the nature of the criminally derived property was defined by statute and outlined in the discovery tendered to defendant. The State concluded that it was not aware of the source of any criminally derived funds.

Defendant again moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the statute so broadly defined criminally derived property that he could not prepare a defense. Defendant also argued that the indictment was still so unspecific as to be defective. The State replied that it had complied with all applicable discovery rules. The trial court denied defendant's second motion to dismiss. Thereafter, the matter proceeded to a bench trial.

At trial, the evidence showed that, in January 1999, defendant entered Laurel Motors in Westmont, Illinois, to purchase a Mercedes S430 automobile. At that time, defendant had not filed a tax return since 1996. The model defendant was seeking was back ordered, so defendant would have had to wait about six months to obtain it. Instead, Laurel Motors salesman Joe Smalzer offered defendant a less expensive model, a CLK 430. On about March 20, 1999, defendant agreed to purchase the CLK 430 and filled out an application for credit with the Mercedes Credit Corporation in his own name. Defendant was accompanied by Edwin Jones. Jones also filled out an application for the financing necessary to purchase the CLK 430. Some of the documents were signed by defendant and some were signed by Jones. Smalzer could not remember how he obtained all of the documents and was unaware of who signed what documents. Smalzer was also unaware to whom the car was delivered, but he testified that he saw defendant drive it into the dealership for servicing.

As part of the information collected by Laurel Motors for the financing, defendant provided a W-2 form listing Jones as an employee of Supreme Life Entertainment. The W-2 form provided by defendant showed that Jones was earning an annual salary of $98,000. Jones testified that he had never been employed by Supreme Life Entertainment. The State introduced records from the Department of Revenue showing that Supreme Life Entertainment never paid taxes. Detective William Murphy visited the two addresses provided on the W-2 form for Supreme Life Entertainment. At those addresses, he found a vacant store front and a boarded-up home. Detective Murphy did not investigate further to determine the leasing history, if any, of the two properties.

Jones testified that, in the purchase of the CLK 430, defendant provided all of the money for the down payment. Jones did nothing but fill out some paperwork and sign documents when told to sign.

In June 1999, the car defendant had originally wished to purchase, a Mercedes S430, became available, and Laurel Motors contacted defendant. Defendant indicated that he wanted to get the car, but would again have Jones assist him with the paperwork. Mercedes Credit initially rejected financing for the second purchase, as it was so close in time to the first purchase. Smalzer explained to Mercedes Credit that defendant originally wanted the S430, which was unavailable in March, and Mercedes Credit approved the financing. The information that had been submitted for the financing on the CLK 430 was copied and submitted again. The total down payment of $9,500 for the S430 again was provided entirely by defendant even though it was logged as having been received from Jones. Defendant conducted and completed the negotiations for the purchase of the S430 before the appearance of Jones, who once again signed documents when told to do so.

Jones testified under a grant of use immunity. He testified that, in March 1999, he accompanied defendant to Laurel Motors to cosign for a loan on a car. Once there, he learned that, even with a cosigner, defendant would be unable to purchase the car due to defendant's poor credit. To avoid either a very large down payment or an unfavorably high interest rate, Jones testified that he signed as the purchaser, even though defendant did not ask him to act as the purchaser. He further testified that he filled out the credit application at the dealership, listing his employer as Supreme Life Entertainment and his annual salary as $98,000, because he did not want anyone calling his actual employer. Jones denied that defendant asked him to list Supreme Life Entertainment as his employer. Jones testified that a W-2 for his purported employment at Supreme Life Entertainment was produced but that he did not know where the W-2 came from.

Jones admitted that he had never worked for Supreme Life Entertainment. He did not know where the down payment on the first car came from but witnessed defendant make the down payment on the second car. Jones testified that he did not make any of the monthly payments on the cars and did not know how they were made.

Jones testified that both he and defendant drove the first car. With respect to the second car, Jones testified that defendant picked it up when it was ready and was the primary driver. Jones testified that the second car was put in his name due to defendant's poor credit.

A number of Jones's statements were impeached by a written statement Jones had provided to police. The statement was redacted and admitted as substantive evidence pursuant to section 115--10.1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/115--10.1 (West 2000)). The court admitted the following four portions of Jones's written statement given to the Wheaton police:

1. "In April 1999 [defendant] ask [sic] if I could co-sign for a 1999 CLK 430 Mercedes Benz. [Defendant] changed his [sic] and then ask [sic] if I could finance the vehicle for him."

2. "[Defendant] provided Schmalzer [sic] with the W-2 form for Supreme Life Entertainment. [Defendant] had me employed as vice president earning $98,000 yearly."

3. "[Defendant] ask [sic] me to put this vehicle in my name because he did not have a ...

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