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People v. Williams

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fifth Division

August 19, 2016

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
RONNIE WILLIAMS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 11-C6-61474; the Hon. Anna Helen Demacopoulos, Judge, presiding.

         Reversed.

          Michael J. Pelletier, Patricia Mysza, and Darrel F. Oman, all of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Anita M. Alvarez, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Matthew Connors, and Mary A. Laird, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

          JUSTICE GORDON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Reyes and Justice Lampkin concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          GORDON JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Following a jury trial, defendant Ronnie Williams was convicted of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and sentenced to three years' probation. On appeal, defendant contends that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence because the police illegally seized him immediately when they arrived on the scene, despite a complete lack of reasonable suspicion that he was engaged in criminal activity. Defendant also contends that the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and that a portion of the police officer's testimony at trial was improperly admitted.

         ¶ 2 We find that the testimony shows that defendant was seized by police without reasonable suspicion, and thus, the trial court erred when it denied defendant's motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's ruling on that motion, thereby suppressing the recovered narcotics, and reverse defendant's conviction.

         ¶ 3 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 4 I. Pretrial Proceedings

         ¶ 5 Defendant was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and possession of a controlled substance for possessing between 1 and 15 grams of a substance containing cocaine. Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence alleging that the white powdery substance was illegally seized because the search and seizure were conducted without a warrant, police lacked probable cause for the search, and he did not consent to the search. Defendant also filed a separate motion to quash arrest and suppress evidence arguing that he was illegally seized because the police lacked reasonable suspicion that he was engaged in criminal activity and his detention and arrest were conducted without a warrant, probable cause, or consent.

         ¶ 6 At a hearing on the two motions, defendant testified that at 6:48 p.m. on November 29, 2011, he drove to East 13th Place in Ford Heights to visit his cousin, Terry Evans. Evans's son, Terry Evans, Jr., also lived at that residence. Defendant testified that he parked the vehicle he was driving directly in front of Evans's house and exited the vehicle. As defendant walked on the sidewalk towards the door of Evans's home, he observed an unmarked police vehicle drive around the corner. The two officers inside that vehicle asked defendant to "come here, " and he complied and walked 10 feet to their location. Defendant testified that he did not feel free to leave when he was commanded to "come here."

         ¶ 7 Defendant further testified that the officers then exited their vehicle and asked him what he was doing there, and he replied that he was picking up his cousin, Terry Evans. The officers placed defendant against the vehicle, and while one officer stayed with him, the second officer went to the door of his cousin's house to talk with his cousin. Five minutes later, that officer returned to the vehicle, searched defendant, and recovered $1300 from his pocket. Defendant testified that he did not give the officers consent to search him and he did not feel free to leave at that time either. The officers next asked defendant if they could search his vehicle, and he said no. The officers then removed defendant's vehicle keys from his pocket, unlocked his vehicle door, searched the vehicle for half an hour, but did not remove any items from the vehicle. Thereafter, the officers called for a drug-sniffing dog and the dog searched the vehicle.

         ¶ 8 Defendant acknowledged that the vehicle he was driving belonged to his wife and that he was authorized to drive the vehicle to that location. Defendant testified that from the time he initially arrived at the location to the time he was taken to the police station was about an hour and a half. He also testified that there was no outstanding warrant for his arrest, and he was not committing any acts that violated the law.

         ¶ 9 On cross-examination, defendant denied that he was parked in front of the house next door and denied that the police drove past and looked at him while he was sitting inside the vehicle. However, defendant then acknowledged that he observed the police officers before he exited the vehicle and that he exited the vehicle as they drove by. He further acknowledged that when the officers asked him to stop, they were inside their vehicle, did not have their red and blue lights activated, and did not point a gun or flashlight at him. When the officer went to the door of the home, Evans came to the door and spoke with the officer for 5 or 10 minutes, and when that officer returned to the street, he told the other officer what Evans said, but defendant did not hear that conversation. Defendant testified that he was picking up Evans to take him to Wal-Mart. Defendant then denied that the officers asked if they could search him and denied that they asked if they could search his vehicle. He estimated that 30 minutes passed from the time the officers entered his vehicle to the time the dog arrived at the scene, and while the dog searched the vehicle, an officer asked defendant if he wanted to sit inside the squad vehicle, and he did. Defendant testified that it was raining and windy at the time. Defendant also acknowledged that he was not handcuffed until after the dog searched his vehicle.

         ¶ 10 Cook County sheriff's police investigator Gena testified that about 6 p.m. on November 29, 2011, he was driving westbound on 13th Place when he passed defendant, who was sitting in a vehicle parked in front of an abandoned house. The officer made eye contact with defendant, who looked back at him. Looking in his rearview mirror, Investigator Gena observed defendant exiting his vehicle, and the officer turned his vehicle around and pulled up behind defendant's vehicle. Investigator Gena acknowledged that defendant was not committing a crime at that time and that there was no outstanding warrant for his arrest.

         ¶ 11 Defendant began walking eastbound, and Investigator Gena exited his vehicle and said "[p]olice, can I talk to you?" Gena testified that the reason he stopped defendant was to conduct a field interview. The officer then walked to where defendant's vehicle was parked. Defense counsel asked "did you tell him to come here ...


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