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Willie L. Gibson v. Keith Anglin

September 11, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Marvin E. Aspen


MARVIN E. ASPEN, District Judge:

Petitioner Willie L. Gibson, a prisoner at Danville Correctional Center, where Respondent Keith Anglin is Warden, petitions for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254; he has also filed a motion for appointment of counsel. For the reasons set forth below, we deny both petitions.


I. Summary

In October 2001, Gibson was charged in the Circuit Court of Lake County with the offense of unlawful possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver. (Resp. Ex. A, Rule 23 Order, People v. Gibson, No. 02-03-0755 at 1 (Ill. App. 2nd Dist. 2005).) After a bench trial, Gibson was convicted of possession of cocaine with the intent to deliver, and was sentenced to twenty-four years imprisonment. (Id. at 1--2.) The facts underlying Gibson's conviction are as follows.*fn1

II. Gibson's Conviction

On September 10, 2001, Waukegan Police Sergeant Wayne Walles and detectives Darren Smith, Scott Chastain, Edward Heidler, and Steve Hollister were part of a neighborhood enforcement team conducting narcotic investigations. (Id. at 2.) These officers were also working alongside an informant named King Bell, who had previous contact with police. (Id.) According to Heidler, Bell indicated to him and the other officers that he could buy crack cocaine from Gibson. (Id. at 3.) In exchange for Bell's assistance, the officers indicated that Bell would get "consideration" if an arrest was made, and Bell was also hoping to get some of his prior cases dismissed. (Id. at 3--4, 8.) Chastain gave Bell $20 to purchase drugs from Gibson. (Id. at 4.) Bell was also searched for contraband, paraphernalia, and money prior to the operation, and none was found. (Id.) Heidler then observed Bell enter a residence, and minutes later, leave with Gibson in a Chevrolet Suburban vehicle. (Id.)

A short time later, Bell contacted Hollister from inside a hotel room and informed him that he had purchased rock cocaine from Gibson and that Gibson had "more on him in the vehicle." (Id. at 4--5.) Hollister then relayed this information to the other officers and advised them that Gibson's vehicle was eastbound on Belvidere Street. (Id. at 4--6.) Subsequently, Smith observed Gibson's vehicle and began following it. (Id. at 2.) After Walles notified Smith that Gibson had committed two traffic infractions, Smith conducted a traffic stop based on the infractions and his prior knowledge that contraband was in the vehicle. (Id.)

The other officers arrived at the traffic stop shortly thereafter, whereby Chastain observed that Gibson had a black bag in his hand that he appeared to be shoving toward the center console area. (Id. at 7.) Chastain and Walles observed Gibson reaching for the black bag as he stepped out of the vehicle, and Walles advised Gibson not to grab it. (Id.) Heidler then recovered the bag, and informed Chastain that drugs were inside the bag. (Id.) Gibson was placed under arrest and taken into custody. (Id. at 7--8.)

While Smith and Bell were outside the vehicle, Bell informed Smith that he had purchased $20 worth of cocaine from Gibson and presented it to him. (Id. at 3.) Bell also informed Smith that inside the center console of the vehicle was a black travel bag containing cocaine and heroin, and Smith relayed this information to the other officers. (Id. at 3--4.) Bell was then transported by Smith back to the police station, where Bell informed Smith and Chastain that before being stopped by police, he and Gibson were en route to 534 South Avenue, a location that contained narcotics and money. (Id. at 3.) According to Smith, Hollister, and Heidler, the police department had several written complaints from anonymous citizens that high narcotics activity took place at that location. (Id. at 3, 5--6.) After receiving Gibson's verbal consent to search the residence, the hotel room, and another location, as well as written consent from the residence's occupant, Henrene McKay, Smith and Chastain investigated and subsequently discovered cocaine, other drugs, and a gun. (Id. at 3, 6.)

Prior to trial, Gibson filed a motion to suppress the evidence that was acquired during the search of the black bag in his vehicle. (Id. at 1.) At an evidentiary hearing, Gibson testified that he did not give consent to the police to search the residence or the hotel room, and that the purpose of his meeting with Bell was to buy merchandise from him. (Id. at 9.) Gibson also denied committing any traffic infractions, making any movements towards the center console of the vehicle, trying to hide anything, or reaching for anything when he was stopped by the police. (Id.) Gibson did admit that the black bag in the vehicle belonged to him and that it contained contraband, and that he knew Bell was a drug user and not a drug dealer. (Id.) Bell testified that he gave Gibson $20 and purchased drugs from Gibson, and that Gibson got the drugs out of a "black pouch" in his vehicle. (Id. at 8.) Bell stated that he "might have" told the police that the drugs were in the console in Gibson's car, but he could not recall. (Id.) However, on cross-examination, Bell acknowledged that he told the officers there were more drugs in the vehicle. (Id. at 8--9.)

After the evidentiary hearing, the trial court found that the stop of the car was proper, "even though it may have been a pretextual stop." (Id. at 10.) The trial court noted that many details provided to police by Bell matched with the police's own observations, and under the "totality of the circumstances," the search was justified. (Id.) Gibson then filed a motion to reconsider, which the trial court also denied, reiterating its conclusion that the stop and search of Gibson's vehicle were proper. (Id. at 11.) In denying Gibson's motion, the trial court considered Bell's production of the drugs to the officers following Gibson's arrest, the subsequent conversation with the officers as to the location of the black bag, and the police officers' own observations of the black bag as factors supporting the constitutionality of the search of Gibson's vehicle. (Id. at 12.)

Following a bench trial, Gibson was found guilty of possession of cocaine with the intent to deliver. (Id. at 12.) Gibson filed a post trial motion, alleging, inter alia, that: (1) his arrest and the search of his vehicle were illegal; (2) the State failed to disclose its arrangement with Bell and that Bell lied about his arrangement with the State at the motion to suppress hearing; (3) the State misled the trial court in its argument on the motion to suppress; (4) the trial court erred in denying the motion to suppress; and (5) the State failed to connect Gibson to the contraband found in the hotel room. (Resp. Ex. B, Rule 23 Order, People v. Gibson, No. 02-04-1083 at 3 (Ill. App. 2nd Dist. 2006).) Gibson subpoenaed Bell, and Bell appeared at the next scheduled date for the hearing, but the matter was continued. (Id. at 4.) Bell failed to appear at any subsequent hearings despite the issuance of a subpoena and bench warrant. (Id.)

At Gibson's post trial hearing, the trial court permitted into evidence a copy of Gibson's post trial motion for a new trial signed by Bell and the report of a defense investigator which stated that Bell signed Gibson's post trial motion to indicate he agreed with the facts stated therein. (Id.) Gibson also entered into evidence an order that showed, as part of a fully negotiated plea, Bell received both charging and sentencing concessions in exchange for his truthful testimony in Gibson's case. (Id.) However, the State entered into evidence affidavits from the assistant State's Attorneys in Gibson's and Bell's cases, both of which stated that Bell was not required to testify to a specific statement of facts, and that there was no consideration given in exchange for Bell's testimony. (Id.)

The trial court denied Gibson's post trial motion for a new trial, finding that Bell's unsworn signature on Gibson's motion was contradicted by Bell's testimony under oath at the hearing on the motion to suppress, and that the record supported a conclusion that there was no agreement between the State and Bell at the time Bell testified at the motion to suppress hearing. (Id.) Gibson was subsequently sentenced to twenty-four years in prison. (Id. at 5.)

III. Gibson's Direct Appeal

On direct appeal before the Illinois Appellate Court, Gibson argued that the trial court erred in its denial of his motion to suppress because: (1) the police officers did not have reasonable suspicion at the traffic stop to justify their investigation based on a tip that he possessed cocaine; and (2) the police did not have probable cause to justify searching his vehicle. (Resp. Ex. A, Rule 23 Order, People v. Gibson, No. 02-03-0755 at 12 (Ill. App. 2nd Dist. 2005).) The Appellate Court rejected Gibson's claims, ruling that: (1) the officers' initial traffic stop was justified at its inception, and the officers reasonably believed they were confronting a situation far more serious than a traffic stop; and (2) based on their training and observations, the anonymous reports of drug activity at the 534 South Avenue house, and the information received from Bell, the officers reasonably believed that the black bag contained contraband and thus had probable cause to search Gibson's vehicle. (Id. at 14--15, 22--23.)

Gibson subsequently filed a Petition for Leave to Appeal ("PLA") to the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that police did not have probable cause to search his vehicle. (Resp. Ex. M, PLA, People v. Gibson, No. 101383, at 14.) The Illinois Supreme Court denied his petition. (Resp. Ex. N, ...

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