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People v. Csaszar

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

February 21, 2017

MARTIN CSASZAR, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 00 CR 1274 Honorable Catherine K. Haberkorn, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE NEVILLE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Hyman and Justice Mason concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 This case comes before us on remand from our supreme court, which instructed us to vacate our original judgment and reconsider the case in light of People v. Cotto, 2016 IL 119006. After a bench trial, the trial court found Martin Csaszar guilty of solicitation of murder for hire (720 ILCS 5/8-1.2 (West 1998)) and sentenced him to 30 years in prison. With the assistance of retained counsel, Csaszar filed a postconviction petition in 2008. The trial court granted the State's motion to dismiss the petition without an evidentiary hearing. On appeal, Csaszar argues only that his retained counsel did not provide reasonable assistance with postconviction proceedings. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 In 1997, Monica Crisan hired Csaszar to drive a truck for Livdimon Enterprise Corporation. Csaszar's employment ended in April 1998. Crisan invited Csaszar to come to her home to pick up his final paycheck on May 3, 1998. Crisan deducted from Csaszar's wages an amount for damage to Livdimon's truck. The amount of the paycheck upset Csaszar. After Csaszar left Crisan's home, Crisan called police to report that Csaszar pulled out a gun and threatened her. Police arrested Csaszar and charged him with aggravated assault and unlawful use of a weapon. The trial court continued proceedings on the charges through 1998 and 1999.

         ¶ 4 Csaszar found work driving a truck for Jakacki Bag and Barrel Company. There he met James Anderson, who worked as a security officer for Jakacki. In 1999, Csaszar told Anderson about the criminal charges Crisan initiated against him. On December 16, 1999, the day before a hearing on the charges, Csaszar met with Anderson and Mark Shaffer. In a tape-recorded conversation, Csaszar gave Shaffer $500 in exchange for Shaffer's promise to kill Crisan. Shaffer, an undercover agent working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), gave a prearranged signal to Chicago police officers once Csaszar gave him the cash. The officers arrested Csaszar and prosecutors charged him with soliciting Shaffer and Anderson to murder Crisan. Csaszar spoke with an officer and an assistant State's Attorney at the police station, but he did not sign any statement.

         ¶ 5 Before trial, defense counsel requested a behavioral clinical examination to evaluate Csaszar's fitness to stand trial. The trial court granted the request. The psychiatrist who interviewed Csaszar found him fit to stand trial and legally sane at the time of the offense.

         ¶ 6 At the bench trial, Crisan testified that on May 3, 1998, after she gave Csaszar the paycheck he considered inadequate, he pulled out a gun and pointed it at her. As she looked for a phone, Csaszar said, "You want to call 9-1-1. *** By the time they will arrive, you'll be dead." Some neighbors passed by her home, and Csaszar ran off.

         ¶ 7 Anderson testified that Csaszar asked him to kill Crisan. When Anderson refused, Csaszar asked him to find someone else to kill Crisan. Anderson contacted an agent he knew who worked for ATF. That agent arranged for Shaffer to pose as a hitman and for recording of further contacts between Anderson, Shaffer, and Csaszar.

         ¶ 8 Assistant State's Attorney Fabio Valentini testified that Csaszar admitted he wanted Crisan dead because she brought charges against him. He had the idea of hiring a hitman, and he asked Anderson to help him.

         ¶ 9 Csaszar testified that Anderson sought out Csaszar's company and offered to help him with several problems. When Csaszar told Anderson about the criminal charges, Anderson suggested killing Crisan. Anderson arranged for the hitman. Csaszar could not explain why he met with Anderson and Shaffer, and why he said what he said in the recorded conversation.

         ¶ 10 The trial court found Csaszar guilty of soliciting Shaffer to murder Crisan for hire and sentenced him to 30 years in prison. The appellate court affirmed the trial court's judgment. People v. Csaszar, 375 Ill.App.3d 929 (2007).

         ¶ 11 In 2006, Csaszar drafted a postconviction petition, but he never filed it. Instead, in 2007, he hired an attorney to prepare a postconviction petition for him. He sent the attorney his draft. In the draft, he claimed that the State tampered with the videotape of his conversation with Shaffer and Anderson. Csaszar said, in an affidavit, that he tried to back away from the deal, but Shaffer said that if Csaszar made him come all the way to the meeting for nothing, Shaffer would kill Csaszar and Csaszar's family. Csaszar said that an inexplicable light appeared ...

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