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People v. Harris

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

October 26, 2016

EUGENE HARRIS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, No. 11 CR 16051 Honorable Timothy J. Joyce, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE COBBS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Fitzgerald Smith and Justice Pucinski concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Following a joint bench trial, defendant Eugene Harris and codefendant Eric McCann[1]were convicted of burglary. The trial court sentenced defendant to nine years' imprisonment as a Class X offender based upon his criminal history. On appeal, defendant solely contends that the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt because the trailer that was entered did not constitute a "building" under the burglary statute. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 Defendant and codefendant were jointly charged with one count of burglary. The charging instrument alleged that "they, knowingly and without authority entered a building, to wit: a trailer, the property of Alexander Matos, located at 401 N. Damen Avenue *** with the intent to commit therein a theft."

         ¶ 3 At trial, Alexander Matos testified that he leased space in an open parking lot at 401 North Damen Avenue where he parked his 36-foot enclosed two-car racing trailer. The trailer contained all of his property that he used at the race track, including engine parts, battery chargers, and all of his tools. About 7 p.m. on August 29, 2011, Matos left his trailer locked in an "untouched" condition, with a large master padlock on the back door and dual locks on the right side door.

         ¶ 4 About 5:30 the following morning, Matos returned to his trailer and observed that it was still locked and in an untouched condition. At that time, Matos also observed defendant and codefendant walking eastbound with a shopping cart about 40 to 50 feet from his trailer, which was parked facing east. Matos recognized defendant and codefendant from the neighborhood, and knew codefendant McCann by his nickname "Ponytail." Matos then left the parking lot and went to work at his nearby mechanic shop.

         ¶ 5 About 8:30 that morning, Matos returned to his trailer and observed that the side door was broken and swung completely open, and the back door was cracked open and bent with the padlock and aluminum guardrail hanging from it. Matos ran inside his trailer and discovered that nearly all of his property was gone, including his racing parts, aluminum rods, titanium pistons, copperhead gaskets, two 16-volt battery chargers, and his telescopic mirror set.

         ¶ 6 Matos called John Mandik, a business acquaintance at Service Battery, Incorporated, which is a recycling facility that buys and sells aluminum and copper, located at 2048 West Hubbard Street. Matos then went to that location and saw several items of his property, including his rods, pistons, copper gaskets, and valve covers. While there, Matos viewed a surveillance video recorded at 7:35 that morning, which showed defendant and codefendant bringing Matos' property to the facility. While the surveillance video was played for the court, Matos identified defendant and codefendant removing several items of his property from a bag. Later in the video, the defendants returned with more of Matos's property, including his tool chest, which contained several pieces of equipment.

         ¶ 7 About 10:20 a.m., Matos called his friend Hector Badillo who owns a body shop at 1917 West Lake Street. Badillo told Matos that McCann was trying to sell him Matos's droplights. Matos then went to the body shop and saw Badillo holding McCann down on the floor while defendant stood near the shop door. Police arrived within minutes, and Matos told them that the defendants had broken into his trailer and stolen his property.

         ¶ 8 In court, Matos identified photographs of his trailer taken after the burglary. Matos testified that he never gave either of the defendants permission to enter his trailer, nor did he give them permission to remove any of his property. Matos estimated that over $6000 worth of tools were stolen from his trailer, only some of which was recovered.

         ¶ 9 Chicago police officer Johnny Estrada testified that at about 10:30 a.m. on August 30, 2011, he was on patrol with his partner, Officer Hidalgo, near 1917 West Lake Street when Matos waved him down and said someone was being held whom he wanted the police to arrest. Officer Estrada entered the body shop and saw McCann being held down on the floor by another man. Officer Estrada knew McCann as "Ponytail" from prior encounters in the area. Defendant was standing nearby, calmly watching McCann struggle on the floor. Both defendants were arrested and transported to the police station. After being advised of his Miranda rights, defendant told Officer Estrada something to the effect of "man, I was there. I was a lookout for the police when Ponytail went inside of the trailer and took the stuff out."

         ¶ 10 Chicago police detective Daniel Switalski testified that during his investigation of the burglary, he advised defendant of his Miranda rights, after which defendant told him that he and Ponytail "had gotten together to do a lick on a trailer." Defendant further stated that he acted as the lookout while Ponytail broke off the lock with a sledgehammer, entered the trailer, and removed car parts. Defendant also said that he and Ponytail took the items in a shopping cart to a scrap yard on Hubbard Street, where they sold the items for $100.

         ¶ 11 The trial court found the testimony from Matos, Officer Estrada, and Detective Switalski credible, and found both defendant and codefendant guilty of burglary. The court subsequently sentenced defendant to nine years' ...

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