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The People of the State of Illinois v. Jarvis Tolefree

August 12, 2011

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
JARVIS TOLEFREE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Criminal Division. No. TJ138-734 Honorable Raymond Mitchell, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Robert E. Gordon

JUSTICE ROBERT E. GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Cahill and McBride concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶1 Defendant Jarvis Tolefree was convicted by a jury of driving on a suspended license and driving without insurance. The trial court sentenced defendant to 1 year of conditional discharge and 10 days in the Sheriff's Work Alternative Program, and assessed a fine in the amount of $515. Defendant filed a motion to reconsider and a posttrial motion for a new trial, both of which were denied by the trial court. Defendant appeals arguing that the trial court (1) failed to make an appropriate inquiry into defendant's pro se posttrial claims that he was deprived of effective assistance of counsel, and (2) erred by not ordering a fitness hearing for defendant after his conduct raised a bona fide doubt as to his fitness to stand trial. We affirm.

¶2 BACKGROUND

¶3 Defendant was arrested for driving on a suspended license, driving without insurance, driving without headlights after sunset, and possession of title or registration not authorized for use on his vehicle. Defendant received a jury trial on the driving on a suspended license and driving without insurance charges, which commenced on August 25, 2009. The remaining charges were to be determined by a later bench trial.

¶4 At a pretrial hearing, the trial court asked defendant if he had an attorney. Defendant replied that he did not and "told the judge my car was on autopilot." The trial court appointed the Cook County Public Defender's Office to represent defendant. At a later pretrial hearing, defendant declined to sign a jury waiver for a bench trial scheduled for June 11, 2009. Defendant's counsel informed the trial court that communication with defendant had been "somewhat difficult."

¶5 At trial, the State called Chicago police officer Bond as its only witness on its behalf. Officer Bond testified that at approximately 10 p.m. on August 2, 2006, he and Officer Romero were driving southbound on Laramie Street, when he observed defendant driving northbound without his vehicle's headlights on. Officer Bond made a U-turn, activated his emergency lights, and pulled defendant over into an alley behind West Gladys Street. Officer Bond testified that after he pulled defendant over, he observed defendant in the driver's seat and no one else in the vehicle. Officer Bond exited his vehicle, approached defendant's vehicle, and asked defendant for his license and insurance. Defendant responded, "I'm suspended. I don't have insurance." Officer Bond testified that he verified through the LEADS computer system that defendant did not have a valid driver's license. Defendant was then arrested.

¶6 On cross-examination, defense counsel questioned Officer Bond about the validity of the alleged traffic stop, but not about the validity of the defendant's driver's license. Specifically, counsel asked whether Officer Bond had affected a traffic stop or had approached defendant's vehicle while it was parked in the Gladys Street alley. Officer Bond denied approaching defendant's vehicle while it was parked in the alley.

¶7 The State produced a certified driving abstract of defendant from the Secretary of State indicating that defendant's driver's license was suspended on August 2, 2006, and offered it into evidence without objection.

¶8 Defendant testified on his own behalf. He first testified that he was exiting his vehicle parked behind his house when Officer Bond approached him. Defendant then testified that he was already outside his vehicle in the Gladys Street alley when Officer Bond approached him. On cross-examination, defendant admitted that the Gladys Street alley is five blocks from his house. Defendant persisted that Officer Bond did not pull him over because he was already out of his vehicle or exiting his vehicle. Defendant testified that Officer Bond questioned him about his headlights and indicated there was "no evidence *** proving that I didn't have -- I had [head]lights on my car." He further testified, "I can't remember [Officer Bond] asking me anything." He then testified Officer Bond searched his vehicle for drugs and, having found none, arrested him for "no headlights." Defendant testified that his vehicle was not returned to him for 15 days because "[his] car was stolen, taken from [him], racketeering" and the city of Chicago took his vehicle "by racketeering." Defendant did not testify about whether he had a valid driver's license or insurance.

¶9 On cross-examination, defendant admitted his vehicle was in the Gladys Street alley and not at his home. The State questioned defendant about how his vehicle ended up in the Gladys Street alley, and defendant responded, "I speak the fifth." Defendant testified he was outside his vehicle and Officer Bond "was talking about some lights." The State questioned defendant about why he was in the Gladys Street alley, and defendant responded, "I pleads the fifth." Defendant further testified that he parked his vehicle in different places to avoid receiving a ticket because his vehicle tags were "messed up." After defendant testified, the defense rested.

¶10 After the jury found defendant guilty of driving on a suspended license and driving without insurance, defendant rejected the State's offer for an agreed sentence that would have disposed of his remaining cases. At the sentencing hearing on September 1, 2009, defendant raised concerns about his counsel's conduct of his trial and the following colloquy took place:

"THE COURT: Mr. Tolefree, do you have anything to say about this [proposed sentence]? ***

DEFENDANT: My trial was just a one sided trial. The jury came in, the evidence of my car, that I had a license, I wasn't able to cross examine the officer or whatever. He pulled up -- it was very important and central that I cross examine the officer. He came and -- whether he -- whether he was looking for drugs or I didn't have a license and on the -- if my car would have been there there was evidence they wasn't supposed to expose my car before the evidence was taken to prove my point that -- it would put the lack -- the right evidence that I have a license.

THE COURT: Well, I understand your position as you know I presided at trial. I think you were very ably represented by two fine defense attorneys and the jury heard the evidence and I think they have a different view of it then you do.

DEFENDANT: They put on one sided evidence. I wasn't able to cross-examine [Officer Bond] on the evidence on whether I had a license or not.

THE COURT: You did have the opportunity to testify and the jury did hear that but that's something for you to take up in a posttrial motion and on appeal as is your right but I think you should -- you should know that you were very well represented at trial."

On appeal, defendant claims that this colloquy shows that the trial court failed to inquire into his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel.

¶11 After the sentence was imposed, defendant's counsel informed the trial court that defendant "doesn't feel *** that he got a fair trial or he doesn't feel that he was represented in the manner in which he wanted to be represented." Defendant's counsel requested that the Cook County Public Defender's Office be allowed to withdraw from defendant's remaining cases. The trial court responded:

"THE COURT: I don't think it's appropriate for me to arbitrate what attorney represents Mr. Tolefree. Mr. Tolefree you have the absolute right to be represented by counsel, counsel of your choice, you have here these two fine lawyers who represented you at the jury trial and did a very fine job. It's certainly a matter that is entirely in your discretion, sir, if you wish to seek substitution of counsel ***."

Defendant responded that he wanted to appeal the jury's verdict, and the trial court then set a future trial date for defendant's remaining cases.

¶12 Defendant filed a motion to reconsider and a posttrial motion for a new trial. At the hearing on the posttrial motions on October 8, 2009, defendant claimed that, at trial, he was not able to cross-examine "the state's opinions." The court responded:

"THE COURT: Well, Mr. Tolefree, you were represented by very able counsel at trial. He did a very good job for you with what was a difficult case. I heard the evidence in the case, I was the presiding judge, you had a very fair trial and ...


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