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People v. Easley

Supreme Court of Illinois

March 20, 2014

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Appellant,
v.
CHRISTOPHER EASLEY, Appellee

Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District.

Appellate court judgment vacated in part. Circuit court judgment affirmed.

SYLLABUS

The classification of a first conviction for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon as a Class 3 felony and a subsequent offense as a Class 2 felony does not involve enhancement; and one convicted of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon based on his possession of a handgun and also on his prior conviction for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon was not entitled to a Class 3 rather than a Class 2 sentence based on the statute requiring the State to give notice of intent to seek an enhanced term--claim of improper double enhancement also rejected.

Lisa Madigan, Attorney General, of Springfield, and Anita M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Michelle Katz and John E. Nowak, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

Michael J. Pelletier, Alan D. Goldberg and Levi S. Harris, of The Office of the State Appellate Defender, of Chicago, for appellee.

JUSTICE KILBRIDE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Karmeier, Burke, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

KILBRIDE, JUSTICE

Page 668

[¶1] Defendant, Christopher Easley, was convicted of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 2008)), and sentenced to nine years in prison. The appellate court affirmed defendant's conviction but vacated his Class 2 sentence and remanded with directions to impose a sentence within the Class 3 felony range. The appellate court reasoned that the State failed to state its intention to seek an " enhanced" sentence prior to trial under section 111-3(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/111-3(c) (West 2008)). 2012 IL App (1st) 110023, ¶ 32, 983 N.E.2d 69, 367 Ill.Dec. 915. We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal. Ill. S.Ct. R. 315 (eff. July 1, 2013). We now affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the appellate court.

[¶2] BACKGROUND

[¶3] Defendant, Christopher Easley, was charged by indictment with one count of aggravated discharge of a firearm, two counts of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon based on a previous conviction for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon, and four counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

[¶4] Evidence at defendant's bench trial established that on December 18, 2008, several police officers were conducting narcotics surveillance in the area of 925 East Sixty-fifth Street in Chicago. Officer Joseph Watson was working undercover as a surveillance officer and was seated alone in a covert vehicle positioned just north of Sixty-fifth Street facing southbound. At approximately 11:45 a.m., Officer Watson observed defendant exit a gray Nissan and walk in front of his car. Defendant was dressed in all black and wearing tan boots. Defendant's hair was in braids. As defendant walked westbound past Officer Watson's car, Officer Watson observed defendant pull a weapon from his right coat pocket. Defendant then started to shoot and ran toward another individual who was walking eastbound. The individual immediately turned around and ran in the opposite direction, while grabbing his side. Defendant fired six shots. After he fired the shots, defendant turned around and began to walk towards the gray Nissan. Officer Watson immediately radioed his team members to inform them that shots were fired. Officer Watson gave a description of defendant and stated that defendant had entered the front passenger seat of the gray vehicle. Officer Watson observed the car pull out and drive eastbound on Sixty-fifth Street. Once the car was a half block away, Officer Watson followed the vehicle.

[¶5] Officer Brian Humpich, who was about two blocks away when he heard Officer Watson's broadcast, followed the Nissan for four to five blocks. The Nissan stopped at Sixty-fifth and Dorchester. Defendant and another individual, later identified as Marshon Jackson, exited the vehicle and began to run.

[¶6] Upon hearing the radio communication, Officer Edwin Utreras pursued the vehicle, following Officers Watson and Humpich. Officer Utreras saw defendant

Page 669

exit the Nissan and start to run. Defendant was wearing dark clothes, tan boots, and a skull cap. After Officer Utreras exited his vehicle and identified himself as a police officer, defendant stopped running. Officer Utreras apprehended defendant and immediately handcuffed him. Defendant said, " I didn't shoot nobody. I just picked up the gun." Officer Utreras had not asked defendant anything about the shooting. Officer Utreras performed a custodial search of defendant and recovered a .38 caliber handgun from defendant's right outer coat pocket. He examined the weapon and found six spent shell casings inside. The parties stipulated that Officer Utreras learned that defendant had a prior conviction for unlawful use of a weapon by a felon under case number 06 CR 8260, and that the State had a certified copy of that conviction.

[¶7] Defendant then testified that on December 18, at approximately 11:00 a.m., he was getting dressed at home. Defendant testified that he received a call from Carey Williams, and they agreed to meet at Seventy-third and Cottage Grove. Williams was the driver of a Nissan. Defendant stated that they met about 10 minutes later. Defendant testified that he was wearing all of the clothing that was previously testified to at trial, except the skull cap, because he had just paid $50 to get his hair done and did not want to mess it up. Defendant was wearing braids. Defendant testified that when ...


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