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People v. Hernandez

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

January 25, 2017

JOSE L. HERNANDEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 14-CF-1268 Honorable John J. Kinsella, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE BIRKETT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Burke and Spence concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Following a bench trial, defendant, Jose L. Hernandez, was convicted of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance (720 ILCS 570/401(a)(1)(D) (West 2014)). He appeals, contending that the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he knowingly participated in the transaction. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 At trial, Garrick Amschl testified that he was a detective with the Olympia Fields police department, assigned to the Department of Homeland Security. In this capacity, he investigated major crimes involving narcotics and money laundering. In his career, he had participated in hundreds of cases.

         ¶ 3 Virtually all of Amschl's cases involved surveillance. He explained that narcotics traffickers and money launderers often conduct "heat runs" and other countersurveillance techniques to find out if they are being watched by law enforcement. A heat run involves taking an out-of-the-way route to an actual destination. Such a run might involve numerous turns, pulling to the side of the street, making U-turns, going down back alleys, or going the wrong way on a one-way street to see if someone is following. This is merely a list of possible behaviors to look for; not every technique will be involved in every investigation.

         ¶ 4 On July 24, 2014, Amschl learned that a previous target of an investigation had been stopped in Arkansas with more than $100, 000 on his person. The vehicle in which he was riding was registered to 14 Lynch Street in Elgin. Amschl went to 14 Lynch Street about 10 a.m. with detectives Miguel Pantoja and Juan Carrillo. They parked on the street, just north of the address. They saw a black Chevrolet Cruze that was registered to defendant at an address in Texas.

         ¶ 5 The officers saw a woman and a young boy leave the house and drive off in a different car. They followed them to a local restaurant, where the woman and the child ate breakfast. When they returned to 14 Lynch Street, the Chevrolet Cruze had left. That vehicle returned about 1:20 p.m., occupied by two Hispanic men, defendant driving. Defendant left the vehicle and entered the house empty-handed.

         ¶ 6 Defendant and the other man returned to the car around 2:45 p.m. Amschl and the other detectives followed them. Amschl testified that defendant took a circuitous route and made several U-turns, which Amschl opined was consistent with a heat run. However, defendant did not appear to violate any traffic laws. The two men eventually returned to the area of 14 Lynch Street but parked about a block away although there was ample parking available in front of the residence. Amschl testified that, in his experience, narcotics dealers often park away from their residences to obfuscate their exact addresses.

         ¶ 7 At 4:11 p.m., defendant and the other man returned to the Cruze. The detectives followed them to a condominium complex on Elgin's west side. The detectives did not follow the Cruze into the complex, because they did not want to alert defendant and his companion to their presence. About a half-hour later, the Cruze left the parking lot. Defendant was still driving, but now he was alone. His former passenger followed in a Chevrolet Impala, accompanied by another man.

         ¶ 8 The two cars drove for some time, eventually arriving at a Wal-Mart in Addison. The vehicles then separated and entered the parking lot at different entrances. Amschl lost sight of defendant's vehicle but maintained surveillance of the Impala. He was informed that another Hispanic man got into the Impala in the parking lot, and he subsequently saw that man get out of the car and get into a red Hyundai. The man was carrying a black bag.

         ¶ 9 Amschl testified, based on his experience in doing surveillance, that drug dealers often use lookouts. They would generally be positioned so that they could watch for police and intervene if any officers were spotted.

         ¶ 10 Amschl and Jose Gonzalez, of the Addison police department, executed a traffic stop of the red Hyundai. The driver of the vehicle was Orlando Pacheco-Ramos. A search recovered eight bricks of heroin from the black bag that he had retrieved from the Impala in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

         ¶ 11 Gonzalez testified that Amschl had requested his assistance in conducting a drug surveillance. He observed the Cruze closely following the Impala. He opined that the Cruze following the Impala was consistent with a drug ...

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