Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 11 CR 3145. Honorable Vincent M. Gaughan, Judge Presiding.
For APPELLANT: OFFICE OF THE ILLINOIS STATE APPELLATE DEFENDER, Chicago, IL, Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender; Alan D. Goldberg, Deputy Appellate Defender; Michael Gentithes, Assistant Appellate Defender.
For APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ILLINOIS STATE'S ATTORNEY, Chicago, IL, Anita Alvarez, State's Attorney; Alan J. Spellberg, John E. Nowak, Mary A. Laird, Assistant State's Attorneys.
JUSTICE ELLIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Howse and Cobbs concurred in the judgment and opinion.
[¶1] Following a bench trial, the trial court convicted defendant Leonard Deleon of unlawful sale or delivery of a firearm pursuant to section 24-3(A)(g) of the Criminal Code of 1961 ( 720 ILCS 5/24-3(A)(g) (West 2008)), which prohibits the delivery of " any firearm of a size which may be concealed upon the person, incidental to a sale, without withholding delivery of such firearm for at least 72 hours after application for its purchase has been made." At trial, the State's evidence showed that defendant had acted as the straw purchaser of a .40-caliber handgun for his friend at a store in Indiana. Defendant, at his friend's request, picked out the gun and paid for it with his friend's money. Four days later, defendant and his friend returned to Indiana, defendant picked up the gun, and defendant gave it to his friend after they returned to Illinois.
[¶2] Defendant raises two issues on appeal. First, he claims that the State lacked jurisdiction to prosecute him because he purchased the firearm in Indiana and delivered it to his friend in Indiana. Second, he claims that the State failed to prove that he did not let the necessary 72-hour waiting period elapse before he delivered the gun to his friend.
[¶3] As we explain more fully below, we reject defendant's contention that the State failed to prove its jurisdiction. Although the evidence showed that defendant initially purchased the gun in a store
in Indiana, his transaction with his friend was not complete until they reached Illinois, where defendant was paid for his services as the straw purchaser and he delivered the gun to his friend.
[¶4] However, we agree with defendant's claim that the State failed to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Under section 24-3(A)(g), a defendant may not deliver a firearm to another person less than 72 hours after the defendant and that other person have reached an agreement to purchase the firearm. Here, the evidence unequivocally showed that defendant and his friend did not reach an agreement to purchase the firearm. Rather, they reached an agreement for defendant's services as the straw purchaser. Because the State failed to prove that fundamental element of its case, we reverse defendant's conviction.
[¶5] I. BACKGROUND
[¶6] Two witnesses testified at defendant's trial. Fred Smith, a salesman at Blythe's Sport Shop in Griffin, Indiana, testified that he sold a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun to defendant on April 15, 2008. Defendant filled out the necessary paperwork for purchasing the firearm and paid for the gun on that date. Smith submitted defendant's information for a background check. On April 19, 2008, after waiting three days for the results of the background check, defendant returned to the store and Smith released the gun to him.
[¶7] Officer Larry Thomas of the Chicago police department testified that, in early 2011, he was investigating the .40-caliber handgun, which had been recovered in an unrelated case. On February 1, 2011, Thomas went to defendant's home in Crestwood, Illinois. Defendant initially told Thomas that he had purchased three firearms in his lifetime, but that they had been stolen. But once Thomas asked defendant about the .40-caliber handgun specifically, defendant admitted that he had bought it for his friend Joseph Hill. Defendant told Thomas that he agreed to purchase the gun for Hill because Hill offered to pay him, and defendant needed the money. Defendant told Thomas that he purchased the gun from Blythe's, put it in the trunk of his car, and drove it to Calumet Park, Illinois, where he gave it to Hill.
[¶8] The State also introduced a copy of defendant's handwritten statement, which he gave to Thomas at the police station. Prior to trial, defendant sought to suppress that statement but was unsuccessful, and defendant does not appeal the denial of his motion to suppress.
[¶9] In his handwritten statement, defendant said that Hill approached him " about buying a gun for him." Defendant said that he needed the money, and that Hill offered to give defendant money " for ...