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The People of the State of Illinois v. Edgar Cameron

October 12, 2012


Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 9th Judicial Circuit, Knox County, Illinois Circuit No. 10-CF-222 HonorableJames B. Stewart, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Carter

JUSTICE CARTER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Lytton and Wright concurred with the judgment and opinion.


¶ 1 After a bench trial, defendant, Edgar Cameron, was convicted of unlawful possession of firearm ammunition by a felon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 2010)) and theft (720 ILCS 5/16-1(a)(4)(A) (West 2010)).*fn1 He was sentenced to consecutive terms of imprisonment and ordered to pay restitution and various fines, fees, and costs. Defendant appeals, arguing that: (1) the trial court improperly shifted the burden of proof to him at the bench trial in violation of his due process rights;

(2) he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of theft; (3) the trial court erred in the amount of restitution it ordered; (4) the trial court erred in imposing consecutive sentences upon him; and (5) he is entitled to a certain monetary credit against his fines for the time he spent in presentence custody and to a recalculation of his Violent Crime Victims Assistance Fund assessment. We agree with defendant's third, fourth, and fifth arguments. Therefore, we affirm defendant's convictions, modify defendant's sentences to concurrent terms of imprisonment, vacate the trial court's restitution order, and remand this case for a restitution hearing, if necessary, and for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


¶ 3 In June 2010, defendant was charged with unlawful possession of firearm ammunition by a felon (count I), theft of Amanda Trejo's vehicle (count II), and theft of Letha McKee's driver's license (count III). The amended charging instrument alleged that the offenses were committed on May 20 (count III) and May 30, 2010 (counts I and II).*fn2 Defendant's case proceeded to a bench trial in September 2010. The evidence presented at trial can be summarized as follows.

¶ 4 Letha McKee testified for the State that on May 20 at about 7 p.m., she went to the Farm King store in Galesburg. Upon arrival, McKee parked in the parking lot next to an unoccupied white Chevrolet with chipped paint and went into the store, leaving her purse in her unlocked car.*fn3 When McKee returned, her purse was missing and the white car was gone. The purse contained McKee's wallet, driver's license, checkbook, and social security cards, and slightly more than $100 in cash. McKee did not see anyone go into her car while she was in the store and did not give anyone permission to do so or to take her purse out of her car.

¶ 5 Galesburg police officer Aaron Ritter testified that he reported to the Farm King store in response to the theft. Upon arrival, Ritter spoke to McKee. McKee gave Ritter a description of the white car that was parked next to hers (the suspect vehicle), and store employees gave Ritter a description of a potential suspect as a heavier-set African-American male. Ritter did not find anyone matching that description at the scene and was unable to locate the suspect vehicle at that time. At some point later, Ritter learned that McKee's driver's license had been recovered from defendant's vehicle by Officer Ingles. Ritter obtained the driver's license and went to the jail to speak with defendant. Defendant denied any involvement in the theft of the purse from McKee's vehicle.

¶ 6 Amanda Trejo testified that she met defendant in early May 2010. On May 29, Trejo and defendant spent the night at a hotel in Galesburg. Before going to the hotel, defendant and Trejo dropped off defendant's car, a white Chevrolet with some paint missing, at the Turnberry apartments. With Trejo's permission, defendant drove them to the hotel in Trejo's car, a black 1996 Ford Taurus. Upon arrival, defendant returned the keys to Trejo. Trejo did not tell defendant that he could no longer drive her car. When Trejo went to bed that night, she put the keys and her cell phone in her bra, but when she woke up the next morning, her keys, her vehicle, and defendant were all missing. Trejo informed the front-desk personnel, and they called the police. Trejo testified that she did not give defendant permission to take her car that morning. Trejo also testified that on May 29, she and defendant were at a bar, and defendant told her not to touch him around the waist because he did not want his gun to fall out.

¶ 7 Galesburg police officer Darrin Worsfold testified that on May 30, he located Trejo's car at the Turnberry apartments after he was advised by Officer Ingles that the car might be at that location. The keys were not in the car, and the car was unoccupied with no one around it.

¶ 8 Galesburg police officer Michael Ingles testified that on May 30 he responded to the hotel in question regarding the vehicle-theft complaint. Upon arrival, Ingles spoke to Trejo. Trejo gave Ingles a description of the missing vehicle, the suspect, and the suspect's vehicle. While Ingles was at the hotel, he saw the suspect vehicle go by. Ingles got into his squad car, caught up to the suspect vehicle, and made a traffic stop. Defendant was the driver of the suspect vehicle, a white Chevrolet with chipped paint, and was also the registered owner. As Ingles approached defendant's vehicle, defendant made an unprompted statement that, "[h]e did not steal that girl's car." Ingles asked defendant if he had the keys to the missing vehicle, and defendant turned the keys over to Ingles. Defendant stated that he told Trejo at the hotel that he was leaving with the vehicle and that he would be back.

¶ 9 During the course of the traffic stop, Ingles learned from dispatch that defendant was on mandatory supervised release. Ingles asked defendant if he could search the vehicle, and defendant consented. In the center console of defendant's vehicle, Ingles found the driver's license of Letha McKee. Defendant told Ingles that he did not know where the driver's license had come from. In the trunk of the vehicle, Ingles found two duffel bags. In one of the bags, Ingles found a pill bottle with .22-caliber bullets in it. In that same bag, Ingles also found two court documents with defendant's name on them. Defendant told Ingles that the bags belonged to his cousin. Defendant did not provide the name of his cousin and did not have an explanation for why his court documents were in the bag. Defendant was arrested at that time. Ingles notified Officer Ritter that he found McKee's driver's license in defendant's vehicle and later turned the license over to Ritter.

¶ 10 In addition to the witness testimony, the State also admitted into evidence McKee's driver's license, which was found in the center console of defendant's car; the bullets, which were found in a bag in defendant's trunk; defendant's court paperwork, which was allegedly found in the same bag as the bullets; and a certified conviction for one of defendant's prior felony convictions.

¶ 11 After the State rested its case-in-chief, the defendant testified in his own behalf. Defendant stated that he drove a white Chevrolet, which had chipped paint. Defendant had been to Farm King a few times but denied that he, or anyone he was with, took a purse out of a car at Farm King. Defendant did not know McKee or how her driver's license got into his center console, and stated that he never saw the license or McKee's purse in his car and that he was not the only person who drove his car. According to defendant, his sister and his two friends, "Bone" and "Kenny Mac," also drove the car. Defendant did not know the real names of his two friends and did not know where they lived.

¶ 12 Defendant stated that on May 29, he dropped his car off at the Turnberry apartments and drove Trejo's car to the hotel. Trejo was with him at the time. When defendant and Trejo got to the hotel, defendant put the keys in his pocket. Trejo never asked for her keys to be returned and never told defendant that he could not drive her car anymore. Defendant and Trejo were both drinking that night. According to defendant, he had permission from Trejo to drive her car. Defendant stated that he woke Trejo up before he left the hotel and told her that he was going to use the car to go to his mother's house to get his phone charger. Trejo seemed to understand and said, "ok." A friend of defendant called him that morning and told him that she had heard his name over the police scanner and that the police were looking for him in relation to a stolen car. On the way back to the hotel, defendant was pulled over. Because defendant already knew that the police were looking for him in relation to a stolen vehicle, the first thing he stated to the officer was that he did not steal that girl's car.

¶ 13 Defendant denied that he consented to a search of his vehicle. The bags in his trunk of the vehicle belonged to his cousin, who was visiting from Chicago, and defendant did not know that one of the bags had bullets in it. Defendant denied that his court documents were found in the bag and stated that the officer probably found them in the glove compartment and lied about where he had found them.

¶ 14 After defendant's testimony, the defense rested. The State recalled Officer Ingles to testify in rebuttal. Ingles testified that just prior to the traffic stop, he was standing in uniform by his squad car in front of the hotel. Ingles saw defendant's car go past and travel east away from the hotel when Ingles pursued defendant and made a traffic stop.

¶ 15 At the conclusion of the evidence, the trial court heard the closing arguments of the attorneys. The State argued that the case came down to a question of credibility and that the defense's theory of the case--that this was all a misunderstanding or a coincidence--went well beyond the evidence that was presented. The defense argued that the State had failed to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt and pointed out where it thought that the evidence was lacking.

ΒΆ 16 After hearing the arguments, the trial court found defendant guilty of unlawful possession of firearm ammunition by a felon (count I) and the theft of McKee's driver's license (count III) and not guilty of the theft of ...

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