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People v. Brown

June 20, 2003

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
LAVON BROWN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court Cook County. No. 98 CR 12477 Honorable Stuart Palmer, Judge Presiding.

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

UNPUBLISHED

A jury convicted defendant, Lavon Brown, of attempted armed robbery and two counts of attempted first-degree murder. The trial court sentenced defendant to 15 years' imprisonment for the attempted armed robbery and two terms of 60 years' imprisonment for the attempted murders, all sentences to run concurrently. Upon appeal, defendant argues: (1) the State failed to prove him guilty of attempted murder beyond a reasonable doubt; (2) the trial court improperly entered multiple convictions for the same act; (3) the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on the defense of necessity and compulsion; and (4) the trial court erred by admitting hearsay evidence. We affirm.

Patricia Gibbons worked as a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), a federal agency, for 13 years. In 1998, she also belonged to the Chicago Anti-Gun Enforcement (CAGE) task force, a joint cooperative between ATF agents and Chicago police officers which investigates the purchase and sale of illegal firearms in Chicago. During her CAGE investigations, Special Agent Gibbons discovered that Joseph Vicario had illegally purchased 21 firearms in a three-year period. In February 1998, Vicario was indicted on federal charges for falsifying the federal application form in connection with the purchase of five firearms.

After appearing in federal court on these charges, Vicario met with Special Agent Gibbons and two assistant United States Attorneys on March 19, 1998, and offered his cooperation in their investigation of co-defendant John Burnom in exchange for consideration on his case. Specifically, Vicario informed Special Agent Gibbons and the two United States Attorneys that he knew Burnom, a high ranking gang member who ran an area of Chicago called "Motown," and that he had engaged in numerous conversations with Burnom regarding the purchase of firearms.

Special Agent Gibbons and Vicario formulated a plan whereby Vicario, in an undercover capacity, would meet with Burnom on March 30, 1998, for the purpose of selling him firearms. The transaction would be monitored by the CAGE task force, headed by Special Agent Gibbons. Vicario would drive a Cadillac specially equipped with a fixed video camera and various microphones and recording equipment.

On March 30, 1998, pursuant to their plan, Vicario met with Special Agent Gibbons in a parking lot at 87th Street and Kedzie Avenue. Vicario was given the Cadillac with the audio and video surveillance equipment.

Later that day, Burnom drove up, exited his vehicle, and entered Vicario's Cadillac. During their 10-minute conversation, the two men agreed that in exchange for various weaponry, defendant would pay Vicario a total of $2,800, in the form of $1,100 in cash and one-half ounce of pure heroin with a street value of $1,700. They agreed to meet again in two days, on April 2, 1998, at a McDonald's parking lot on 79th Street and Western Avenue to conclude the transaction.

On April 2, 1998, CAGE team members Sergeant Eldon Urbikas, Officer Coles, and Officer David Harris (of the Chicago police department), and Special Agent Mike Casey (of the ATF) were dispatched to the McDonald's parking lot at approximately 11 a.m. They were assigned to conduct surveillance from a Chicago police department undercover conversion van and to be the immediate arrest team. The van took up a position in the north end of the McDonald's parking lot.

Meanwhile, Vicario arrived at 87th Street and Kedzie Avenue and was given the specially equipped Cadillac. Vicario then went to Burnom's "Motown" neighborhood, in the area of 51st Street and Racine Avenue, and began asking around if anyone had seen Burnom. Special Agent Gibbons and two other ATF agents followed Vicario in a separate vehicle.

Vicario eventually spoke with a man named "Ernest,"later identified as the victim, Ernest Hopkins. Vicario explained to Ernest that he was trying to locate Burnom. Ernest told Vicario how to page Burnom.

Burnom returned Vicario's page and the two men reached an agreement to meet at approximately 3 p.m. at the McDonald's parking lot. Special Agent Gibbons, the two ATF agents, and Vicario then drove to a forest preserve on 87th Street, where Special Agent Gibbons put a suitcase full of weapons in the trunk of the Cadillac. Special Agent Gibbons told Vicario that the guns were not to leave the trunk of the car, and she also told him to park as close as possible to the covert van in the McDonald's parking lot.

At approximately 3 p.m., Vicario arrived at the McDonald's parking lot and pulled into a spot at the north end of the lot, in close proximity to the covert van containing Sergeant Urbikas, Officer Coles, Officer Harris, and Special Agent Casey. Meanwhile, Special Agent Gibbons took up surveillance from a Shell gas station located on the northwest corner of 79th Street and Western Avenue, adjacent to and south of the McDonald's parking lot.

Later, a small green car pulled up next to Vicario's Cadillac. There were two men in the car, including the victim Ernest Hopkins, who had earlier told Vicario how to page Burnom. Vicario told them that he was looking for Burnom, and they replied that he was on the way. Vicario then stated that he would only deal with Burnom.

The green car backed away and parked for a few moments alongside the covert van. The driver of the car, later identified as the defendant, reached under the seat, retrieved a handgun, and handed it to Ernest Hopkins. Hopkins put the gun in his waistband.

Defendant drove the green car into the Shell station. At approximately this time, Special Agent Gibbons observed Burnom parked in the Shell station. Special Agent Gibbons saw Burnom walk over to the green car and converse with the two occupants for ...


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