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People v. $35

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

September 27, 2016

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
$35, 315.00 UNITED STATES CURRENCY, Defendant. Tykisha Lofton, Claimant-Appellee.

         Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 14MR1046 Honorable Thomas E. Griffith, Jr., Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE POPE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Knecht and Justice Turner concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          POPE JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 The State appeals the trial court's judgment the proceeds of a winning lottery ticket were not forfeitable under the Illinois Drug Asset Forfeiture Procedure Act (Forfeiture Act) (725 ILCS 150/1 to 14 (West 2014)). We reverse.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 On November 18, 2014, Macon County police officers executed a search warrant at the residence of Terrance Norwood. Claimant, Tykisha Lofton, lived with Norwood. Police recovered cannabis, cocaine, a digital scale, packaging material, a loaded SKS assault rifle, ammunition, and approximately $200 cash.

         ¶ 4 During an interview with police, Norwood admitted he sold drugs. Norwood stated he was unemployed and had no source of income other than drug sales. Norwood explained he was going to stop selling drugs because he had recently purchased a scratch-off lottery ticket at the Price Rite in Decatur and won $50, 000.

         ¶ 5 On November 21, 2014, the State charged Norwood with (1) armed violence for being armed with a dangerous weapon while possessing cocaine with the intent to deliver (720 ILCS 5/33A-2(a), A-3(a) (West 2014)) (count I), (2) armed violence for being armed with a dangerous weapon while possessing cannabis with the intent to deliver (720 ILCS 5/33A-2(a), A-3(a) (West 2014)) (count II), (3) unlawful possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) while within 1000 feet of church property with the intent to deliver and with a prior conviction for unlawful possession of controlled substance with the intent to deliver (720 ILCS 570/407(b)(1) (West 2014)) (count III), and (4) unlawful possession of cannabis with a conviction for prior unlawful possession of a controlled substance with the intent to deliver (720 ILCS 550/4(d) (West 2014)) (count IV).

         ¶ 6 On January 14, 2015, the State filed a complaint for forfeiture, seeking the proceeds of the winning lottery ticket, i.e., $35, 315. (The parties appear to agree that figure represents the lump sum value of the $50, 000 prize.) The State alleged those funds were subject to forfeiture as proceeds traceable to Norwood's illegal drug sales.

         ¶ 7 During the bench trial on the State's complaint, Macon County sheriff's deputy Brian Hickey testified he and other officers executed a search warrant at Norwood's residence on November 18, 2014. Both Norwood and Lofton were present at the time of the search. In the bedroom, police observed an SKS assault rifle in plain sight and two boxes of ammunition. In the kitchen, police found 7.5 grams of cocaine, a digital scale, and drug packaging material. In addition, cannabis was located throughout the house. Police also recovered small rocks of crack cocaine from a vehicle parked at the residence, which was titled in both Norwood's and Lofton's names.

         ¶ 8 During an interview with Hickey, Norwood stated he had been unemployed for several months and admitted he was selling cocaine and cannabis. Norwood stated he was selling drugs to pay the bills until he got "that little bit of money." When Hickey asked Norwood what he meant by "that little bit of money, " Norwood explained he had won $50, 000 on a $3 scratch-off lottery ticket. The ticket had been turned in to the lottery office in Springfield, and Norwood was waiting to get paid. Hickey testified Norwood told him he purchased the ticket in the beginning of November and he let Lofton scratch it off.

         ¶ 9 Hickey testified he also interviewed Lofton. According to Hickey, Lofton never gave any indication she was the one who paid for the ticket. She told him Norwood purchased the ticket and she scratched it off. Lofton maintained she knew Norwood smoked cannabis but she was unaware he was selling drugs. While the SKS rifle was located in plain sight, Lofton stated she never noticed it. Hickey testified one of the cell phones seized belonged to Lofton. On that phone, police found text messages referring to "loud." Hickey explained "loud" is a street term for high-grade cannabis. On Norwood's cell phone, there were images of Lofton and Norwood with marijuana plants. Hickey testified Norwood advised he had told Lofton he was selling drugs but he was going to stop once they got the lottery money.

         ¶ 10 After the trial court denied Lofton's motion for a directed finding, she presented her case. Lofton testified she and Norwood had been living together "for years." Lofton lived at the residence with her three children (ages five, six, and eight). Lofton maintained Norwood did not give her the money to purchase the ticket. Lofton testified she was unemployed both at the time of the hearing and at the time the lottery ticket was purchased. Although she last babysat in September, Lofton claimed to have received payment for those services in October 2014. Lofton explained she purchased the first ticket, which yielded a free ticket, with money she received from babysitting. According to Lofton, the free ticket was the winning ticket. Lofton testified she immediately went to the Springfield lottery office and filled out a claim form. A copy of that form was introduced into evidence. It showed her name, social security number, phone number, driver's license number, and signature, and it was dated October 30, 2014. Lofton testified she did not have an agreement to split the winnings with Norwood. Lofton did not recall speaking to police about the ticket. She also testified she was unaware Norwood was dealing drugs. According to Lofton, she did not know there was a weapon, a digital scale, or cocaine in the residence.

         ¶ 11 At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court found in favor of Lofton. With regard to who purchased the ...


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