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United States ex rel Class v. Johnson

August 19, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge.


Before the Court is Petitioner Angel Class' petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). For the following reasons, the Court denies Class' habeas petition and declines to certify any issues for appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2).*fn1


Class does not present clear and convincing evidence challenging the statement of facts set forth in the Illinois Appellate Court's opinion on direct appeal, and thus the Court presumes those facts are correct for purposes of its habeas review. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Rever v. Acevedo, 590 F.3d 533, 537 (7th Cir. 2010). The Court therefore adopts the underlying facts in People v. Class, No. 1-04-2930 (Ill. App. Ct. 2006) (unpublished).

I. Factual Background

On the evening of October 22, 2001, the victim, Tony Konewicz, died from a gunshot wound that lacerated his lungs and heart. At Class' bench trial, Heather Ambrose testified that around 7 p.m. on October 22, 2001, while she was in bed at her grandparent's house feeling sick, Class and Elijah Salazar knocked on her bedroom window. Ambrose knew Class and Salazar because the three of them had grown up in the same neighborhood. Further, Ambrose testified that Class and Salazar were both members of the Satan Disciples street gang. After knocking on her window, Class and Salazar asked Ambrose to drive them around in her car. While Ambrose drove, Class sat in the front passenger seat and Salazar sat in the back seat. At first, the group drove around the neighborhood. Eventually, Class told Ambrose that he wanted to stop at a particular house. On the way to the house, the group stopped at a red light at the corner of Grand Avenue and Oakley Street in Chicago, Illinois. Class then told Ambrose to turn right on Oakley Street. Ambrose -- who was familiar with the territorial boundaries of the Satan Disciples and a rival gang called the C-notes -- testified that she was uncomfortable making this turn because she knew it would lead them into C-notes territory. Nevertheless, Ambrose complied with Class' directions and made the turn onto Oakley Street.

Ambrose also testified that she continued to drive down Oakley Street until Class said that he saw his cousin's car, which was a red, four-door parked on Ohio Street. Ambrose further explained that at Class' direction she turned right onto Ohio Street heading toward the red car. As she drove, Ambrose noticed that Class had his right hand inside his sweatshirt pocket while he used his left hand to roll down the passenger-side window. Ambrose then pulled up next to the red car. Ambrose testified that there was about one to two feet separating her front passenger side and the driver's side of the red car. Also, Ambrose testified that Class then leaned out of the passenger side window like he was going to talk to the person in the driver seat of the red car. When the driver of the red car began to roll down his window, Class pulled a gun out of his sweatshirt, aimed at the red car, and began firing the gun.

Ambrose further testified that while Class fired the gun, he yelled, "S.D. bitch," "Now I have got you," and "C-note killer." Ambrose testified that she saw Class fire two shots and heard glass shattering. After the first two shots, Class instructed Ambrose to keep her eyes forward and not look at him after which she complied. Ambrose further testified that she did not see what Salazar was doing in the back seat of her car. Also, Ambrose stated that Class continued to fire until the cartridge emptied and his gun made a clicking noise. At that point, Ambrose pulled away from the red car and drove down Ohio Street. She looked back through her rear-view mirror and observed the red car making a wide u-turn and driving off in the opposite direction. As Ambrose drove away, she heard Class say "we finally got them."

Ambrose testified that she then dropped Class and Salazar off at Class' home and proceeded to her grandparent's house. The next morning, Class called Ambrose informing her that he and Salazar were coming over to clean her car. After Class and Salazar arrived, the group, including Ambrose, picked up Class' friend, Patty Petrey, and drove to a nearby car wash. On the way to the car wash, Ambrose heard Class tell Petrey: "[W]e shot that bitch. We finally got him." At the car wash, Class, Salazar, and Petrey scrubbed down the dashboard and windows and vacuumed the floors. After the car wash, Class told Ambrose to go straight home and not to talk to the police.

Three days later, Class asked Ambrose when she was returning to Kentucky. Ambrose responded that she planned to return when she had enough gas money. Later that day, Class gave Ambrose $80 for gas money and told her to go back to Kentucky. Ambrose testified that Class threatened to kill her and blow up her grandparent's house if she told the police or anyone else about the shooting. Class instructed Ambrose that if the police contacted her, she was to say that she had not seen him on the day of the shooting and that she was at home all day. Ambrose testified that she drove to Kentucky the following day. In addition, Ambrose testified that about a month and a half later, police detectives came to question her. She told the detectives that she was scared to talk to them. After they assured her that they would do their best to make sure nothing happened to her or her grandparent's house, Ambrose told them what she witnessed on the night of the shooting.

On cross-examination, Ambrose testified that although she had a tattoo associated with the Satan Disciples, she was not a member of the gang. Also on cross-examination, Ambrose acknowledged that she had been convicted in federal court of aiding and abetting aggravated criminal sexual abuse. She also testified that she had smoked marijuana the evening of the shooting. Furthermore, Ambrose admitted that when she first spoke with the police detectives, she denied knowing anything about the shooting and lied by saying that she had loaned someone her car on the day of the shooting. On redirect examination, Ambrose testified that she was not able to get a look at the driver of the red car, but that the driver rolled down his window when Class started shooting. She also stated that she did not see anyone other than Class shooting out of her car.

At trial, Gerard Racasi, a member of the C-notes gang, also testified. He stated that he was the front passenger in the victim's car during the shootings. The two were parked on or near Ohio and Leavitt Streets in Chicago smoking marijuana just before the shooting. Racasi testified that he heard nine or ten shots fired, but he ducked down in the front passenger seat so he was unable to see who fired the shots. Also, Racasi testified that after the shooting, the victim turned the car around and attempted to drive to the hospital. Racasi, however, had to drive to the hospital because the victim could not.

At trial, Chicago Police Officer Luis Arroyo testified that around 10 p.m. on the night of the shooting he was dispatched to the hospital where the victim was receiving medical care. At the hospital, Officer Arroyo spoke with Racasi and then examined the victim's red car in the hospital's parking lot. Officer Arroyo observed the shattered driver-seat window and bullet holes on the driver's side door. Thereafter, he went to the crime scene where he discovered shattered glass lying on Ohio Street near the intersection with Leavitt Street. In addition, Chicago Police Officer Robert Davie, a forensic investigator, testified that he and his partner recovered two fired bullets and nine fired cartridge cases at the crime scene. Officer Davie and his partner also went to the hospital where they photographed the red car and recovered one bullet from the front driver's side door.

The parties stipulated that Forensic Investigator T. Hanley recovered an additional bullet from the inside rim of the driver's side front wheel. Trial testimony also revealed that the police officers properly transferred all firearms evidence to the Illinois State Police Crime Lab for testing. The testing established that the nine fired cartridge casings had no fingerprint impressions suitable for comparison. The testing also established -- and the parties stipulated -- that the bullets and cartridge casings recovered at the scene and the bullets recovered from the red car were all fired from the same weapon. The parties also stipulated that the autopsy performed on the victim properly identified the cause of death as a gunshot wound of the shoulder lacerating his lungs and heart and that the bullet recovered from his body came from the same weapon as did the other firearms evidence.

Chicago Police Detective Robert Rodriguez testified that he learned of Ambrose's involvement in the shooting from an anonymous source. About a month and a half after the shooting, Detective Rodriguez and his partner interviewed Ambrose. Ambrose initially denied having knowledge about the shooting, but eventually admitted that she actually knew more.

Also, Chicago Police Officer Miguel Delatorre testified that, on April 27, 2002, pursuant to an arrest warrant in connection with the victim's death, he and other officers were dispatched to a house where Class' mother resided based on information that Class was there. According to Officer Delatorre, when they arrived, Class noticed them while he stood in front of ...

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