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The People of the State of Illinois v. Christopher Easley

December 24, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
CHRISTOPHER EASLEY,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 09 CR 888 The Honorable Jorge Luis Alonso, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Harris

PRESIDING JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Quinn and Connors concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Defendant, Christopher Easley, appeals his conviction after a bench trial of unlawful use of a weapon (UUW) by a felon and his sentence of nine years' imprisonment. On appeal, Easley contends (1) he was subjected to improper double enhancement where his prior felony conviction of UUW was used both as an element of his current offense of UUW and used by the trial court to impose a harsher sentence; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion in sentencing him where it failed to give proper consideration to mitigating factors such as his employment, education, family circumstances and relationships, lack of violent criminal history and remorse. For the following reasons, we affirm Easley's conviction for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, reduce the classification of this conviction from a class 2 to a class 3 felony, and remand for a new sentencing hearing.

¶ 2 JURISDICTION

¶ 3 The trial court sentenced Easley on December 7, 2010. He filed a notice of appeal on December 7, 2010. Accordingly, this court has jurisdiction pursuant to article VI, section 6, of the Illinois Constitution and Illinois Supreme Court Rules 603 and 606, governing appeals from a final judgment of conviction in a criminal case entered below. Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, § 6; Ill. S. Ct. R. 603 (eff. Oct. 1, 2010); R. 606 (eff. Mar. 20, 2009).

¶ 4 BACKGROUND

¶ 5 Easley was charged in a multi-count indictment following an incident that occurred on December 18, 2005. Count I charged him with aggravated unlawful use of a firearm, counts II and III charged unlawful use of a weapon by a felon in violation of section 24-1.1(a) of the Criminal Code of 1961 (Code) (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 2008)), and counts IV through VII charged aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

¶ 6 At the bench trial, Officer Joseph Watson testified that he was working undercover conducting narcotics surveillance around 925 East 65th Street in Chicago, Illinois, on December 18, 2005. He was alone in a covert vehicle. Around 11:45 a.m., he observed Easley exit a gray Nissan. Easley was wearing all black clothing with tan boots and his hair was in braids. As Easley walked past the officer's car, he pulled out a weapon from his right coat pocket and started shooting at and running toward an individual walking eastbound. The individual grabbed his side and ran away. After firing six shots, Easley returned to the gray Nissan. Officer Watson radioed his team that shots had been fired and he gave a description of Easley whom he observed enter the front passenger side of the Nissan. Once the car drove half a block, Officer Watson began to follow the vehicle.

¶ 7 Officer Brian Humpich testified that he was one of the narcotics team members and he was also in an unmarked vehicle. He was about two blocks from Officer Watson when he heard him broadcast about a shooting. Officer Watson described the shooter as wearing a black coat with black jeans and beige boots. He also relayed that the offender got into the front passenger side of a gray Nissan and the direction in which the car was traveling. Officer Humpich observed a car matching this description turn a corner and he followed Officer Watson's vehicle with his lights and sirens activated. After the Nissan traveled four or five blocks, it stopped and Easley and another passenger exited and began to run. The other exiting passenger, later identified as Marshon Jackson, was riding in the back seat behind the driver. The Nissan stopped in front of Officer Watson's car. Officer Watson stopped and stayed with the driver and a woman passenger who was seated in the back on the passenger side. Officer Watson admitted that although he did not speak with the victim, in his police report he checked a box indicating that the victim had been tested for sobriety and had been drinking.

¶ 8 Officer Humpich observed two other officers, Sergeant Roman and Officer Utreras, chase after Easley and Jackson. He lost sight of them for two or three seconds but then he saw Jackson hop a fence and run up some stairs. Officer Humpich placed Jackson under arrest.

¶ 9 Officer Utreras testified that he was part of the narcotics team on December 18, 2005, when he heard a call over the radio that a black male fired shots at another individual and the offender had jumped into a gray Nissan heading eastbound on 65th Street. Officer Utreras spotted the vehicle and followed behind Officers Watson and Humpich. He then saw Easley exit the Nissan and run. He described Easley as wearing dark clothes with tan boots. He was also wearing a skull cap. Officer Utreras identified himself as a police officer and Easley stopped running. As Officer Utreras apprehended him, Easley stated, "I didn't shoot nobody. I just picked up the gun." Officer Utreras testified that he did not ask Easley about the shooting. Upon performing a custodial search of Easley, Officer Utreras recovered a 38-caliber handgun from his right coat pocket. The handgun contained six spent shell casings. Officer Utreras acknowledged that he did not go back to the scene to look for evidence, did not administer a gun residue test or submit the gun for fingerprint examination.

¶ 10 The parties stipulated that Easley had a prior conviction for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon under case number 06 CR 8260. The State rested and Easley made a motion for a directed finding. The trial court found Easley not guilty as to counts V and VII and denied his motion as to the remaining counts.

¶ 11 Easley testified that on December 18, 2008, he met with Carey Williams so that he could drive Easley to his sister's mother's house for Christmas shopping money. William's girlfriend and another male were also in the car. That day, Easley was wearing a black jacket, black shirt, jeans, and tan boots. However, he did not wear a skull cap because he just had his hair done for the holidays.

ΒΆ 12 Easley stated that around 65th Street Williams stopped the car, got out, and started shooting and chasing another individual. Williams then got back in the car and drove away. Easley stated that he stayed in the car because he was afraid the individual would return to shoot at them. He stated that he did not have a gun nor did he ever touch a gun. Easley noticed that other cars were chasing them but he did not know they were police cars because they were unmarked. Williams stopped the car and Easley immediately got out with his hands in the air. He stated that Officer Utreras had his gun out and kicked snow in his face. Easley told the officer that he "ain't do it. I ain't do nothing." Easley admitted that he had a ...


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