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People v. Woods

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

August 28, 2013

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JOHNATHAN NORMEL WOODS, Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from Circuit Court of McLean County No. 11CF403 Honorable Robert L. Freitag, Judge Presiding.

PRESIDING JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Appleton and Turner concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 In May 2011, the State charged defendant, Johnathan Normel Woods, with unlawful possession of a controlled substance (less than 15 grams of a substance containing cocaine) (720 ILCS 570/402(c) (West 2010)). Shortly thereafter, defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the police violated his fourth-amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Following a July 2011 hearing, the trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress.

¶ 2 In November 2011, following a stipulated bench trial, the trial court convicted defendant of unlawful possession of a controlled substance (less than 15 grams of a substance containing cocaine) (720 ILCS 570/402(c) (West 2010)). In February 2012, the court sentenced defendant to five years in prison.

¶ 3 Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress. We disagree and affirm.

¶ 4 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 5 In May 2011, the State charged defendant with unlawful possession of a controlled substance (less than 15 grams of a substance containing cocaine) (720 ILCS 570/402(c) (West 2010)). Shortly thereafter, defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the police violated his fourth-amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. In July 2011, the trial court conducted a hearing on defendant's motion, at which the parties presented the following evidence.

¶ 6 A. The Evidence Presented at the July 2011 Hearing on Defendant's Motion To Suppress

¶ 7 In May 2011, defendant and his girlfriend, Qyanna Jackson, were sitting in a parked vehicle in front of Jackson's apartment, which was in the Sunnyside Housing Complex. (The Sunnyside Housing Complex is part of the Bloomington Housing Authority.) Officer Elias Mendiola, who was on routine patrol, stopped his squad car in an adjacent parking spot and approached the vehicle. Mendiola found defendant sitting in the driver's seat and Jackson sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle. Mendiola began questioning the couple from the driver's window to make sure they were allowed to be on the housing complex grounds. (A second officer arrived shortly thereafter to speak specifically with Jackson from the passenger window.)

¶ 8 Mendiola asked to see defendant's identification to verify that he was permitted to be in the housing complex. Defendant responded that he did not have identification and told Mendiola that his name was "John Jones." Jackson provided her housing identification, verifying that she lived at the Sunnyside Housing Complex. Jackson explained to Mendiola that defendant was her guest.

¶ 9 Mendiola testified that he submitted the names provided by the couple to dispatch. Dispatch responded that those names came back "clear." Although skeptical of the name defendant provided, Mendiola did not pursue it further because defendant appeared nervous. While he was speaking to defendant, Mendiola told defendant to keep his hands visible and then "called him out on why he was nervous." Defendant responded, "no reason, " but Mendiola was concerned because of the neighborhood's history of violence. At one point, defendant made a "quick movement with his right hand towards his right front pocket." Mendiola said that he reiterated that he wanted defendant to keep his hands visible and that if he made a quick movement like that again, he would "produce a weapon" because he would "assume [he was] going for a weapon." Mendiola then asked defendant for consent to pat him down. Defendant consented and exited the vehicle so that Mendiola could do so.

¶ 10 Mendiola escorted defendant to the rear of Jackson's vehicle, where he initiated the pat down. When Mendiola "got to the waistband area, " defendant started looking down and appeared nervous again; defendant was "trembling." Mendiola then asked defendant for consent to search his right front pocket, and defendant consented. That search revealed two rocks of cocaine inside some cellophane. Mendiola thereafter arrested defendant. After being read his rights at the police station, defendant confirmed that he consented to the pat-down search.

¶ 11 Although the general account of the events outlined by Mendiola was consistent with that of defendant and Jackson, their testimony differed from Mendiola's account in some significant ways. According to them, defendant never reached for his pocket while he was in the vehicle—indeed, he was "playing on his phone" and "lit a cigarette." Both defendant and Jackson also (1) insisted that defendant was not nervous and (2) testified that Mendiola threatened to shoot defendant if he did not stop moving. Defendant testified that he never consented to being searched because Mendiola never asked for consent; instead, Mendiola asked him to exit the vehicle and move to the rear of the vehicle where Mendiola ...


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