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People v. Frazier

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, First Division

August 15, 2016

TERRELL FRAZIER, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 13-CR-14983; the Hon. James M. Obbish, Judge, presiding


          Michael J. Pelletier, Patricia Mysza, and Christopher L. Gehrke, all of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Anita M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Miles J. Keleher, and Michael J. Czopkiewicz, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

          Panel CUNNINGHAM PRESIDING JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Connors and Harris concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Following a bench trial, defendant Terrell Frazier was convicted of possession of a stolen motor vehicle and sentenced, as a Class X offender, to 6½ years' imprisonment. On appeal, defendant contests the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction, arguing that the evidence failed to show that the motor scooter he possessed qualified as a motor vehicle, that it was stolen, and that he knew it was stolen. We affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.

         ¶ 2 At trial, Conrad Hard testified that he owned a 2011 Lingyu 13L150 motor scooter, which was started with a key. He bought the motor scooter from the "Tool Store" in Forestview and registered it with the State of Illinois. The registration form for the scooter, which was entered into evidence, indicated the vehicle identification number (VIN) of the scooter.

         ¶ 3 On July 22, 2013, Hard parked his motor scooter across the street from his apartment at the corner of North Kedzie Avenue and West Warren Boulevard in Chicago. The following day, he observed that the motor scooter was not where he had parked it and the lock to the motor scooter and its cover were inside his apartment building at the front door. Hard called the police and reported that his motor scooter had been stolen. Hard went to the police station on July 25 and was directed to the motor scooter. The motor scooter appeared different as it was broken and items were missing, including the ignition. He specifically stated that the space where the ignition was supposed to be was "just busted straight down the middle with a big hole where I used to put the key for the ignition." Hard had the key from the stolen motor scooter with him at the police station and used it to open the storage compartment under the seat. Hard did not know defendant and did not give him, or anyone else, permission to take the motor scooter between the last time he saw it on July 22 and when he saw it again at the police station on July 25. Hard stated that the police returned the motor scooter to him, and he was able to drive it home by connecting the wires in such a way that he only needed to press the start button. At the time of trial, Hard still owned and drove the motor scooter.

         ¶ 4 Officer Sean Flynn testified that he saw defendant talking to another person while sitting on a motorized scooter that had its engine running and was parked on the sidewalk at approximately 1002 North Hamlin Avenue in Chicago on July 25, 2013. Flynn and his partner exited their squad car, noticed that the motorized scooter did not contain a license plate, and asked defendant for his driver's license. Defendant did not have a license, and Flynn detained him. Flynn discovered that defendant's license had been suspended, and when he ran the VIN on the motorized scooter, it came back as stolen. He subsequently learned that the motorized scooter was registered to Conrad Hard. Upon defendant's detention, Flynn noticed that the cylinder for the ignition had been removed and no key was inside as there was no ignition to put it into. Flynn stated that he had seen hundreds of motorized scooters similar to the subject motor scooter and that scooters in good condition are operated with a key. He denied ever seeing a scooter that could be operated by a "push start." No pictures were taken of the damaged scooter.

         ¶ 5 After the State rested, defendant made a motion for directed finding, arguing that the State failed to prove that he knew the motor scooter was stolen. In denying the motion, the trial court found that the type of damage the motor scooter sustained showed that defendant knew it was stolen.

         ¶ 6 Defendant, who was on probation for possession of a controlled substance and had previous felony convictions, testified that he was having a conversation with his friend, Raymond Thompson, about Thompson's motor scooter on July 25, 2013. Thompson started the motor scooter by holding the brake and pushing a button. Defendant got on top of the motor scooter and asked Thompson if he could take it on a test drive because he was considering buying it from him. Defendant believed that his driver's license was valid and indicated that he knew he needed a driver's license to operate the motor scooter. The police arrested defendant before he had the chance to drive the motor scooter. Thompson did not tell defendant that the motor scooter was stolen, nor did he see any evidence that it was stolen, particularly where he believed the scooter was a "push start" that did not require a key.

         ¶ 7 During cross-examination, defendant indicated that the motor scooter could be driven on the street and could reach approximately 40 miles per hour. He did not see the empty space in the motor scooter where a key would have gone and stated that he previously owned a "push start" motor scooter. Defendant denied ever going to school to become a mechanic and never told the police that he went to mechanic school or that he thought the motor scooter was a "push start" based on his auto mechanic training.

         ¶ 8 Following closing arguments, the trial court found defendant guilty of possession of a stolen motor vehicle. In doing so, the court found that defendant's testimony lacked credibility where he did not inform the police that Thompson owned the motor scooter, and there was no real distinction between this case, where there was a hole where the ignition should have been, and a case where an individual is caught riding in a motor vehicle with a peeled steering column. The court noted that ...

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