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People v. Fletcher

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

April 13, 2017

ALEXANDER FLETCHER, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, Will County, Illinois.

         Appeal No. 3-14-0530 Circuit No. 11-CF-1285 Honorable Robert P. Livas, Judge, Presiding.

          Justice McDade concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          Justice Wright dissented, with opinion.



         ¶ 1 Following a bench trial, the trial court found defendant, Alexander Fletcher, guilty of armed robbery, a Class X felony. The court sentenced defendant to 21 years' imprisonment-the 6-year minimum plus the 15-year statutory firearm enhancement. On appeal, defendant argues (1) his conviction should be vacated because the record does not show that he knowingly and understandingly waived his right to a jury trial, and (2) the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of armed robbery with a firearm. We vacate defendant's conviction and remand for a new trial.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 On July 14, 2011, the State charged defendant by indictment with armed robbery with a firearm. 720 ILCS 5/18-2(a)(2) (West 2010). The indictment was based on a theory of accountability and alleged that defendant, along with Aaron Anderson, knowingly took United States currency from the person of Jacob McNamara by threatening the use of force while carrying a firearm.

         ¶ 4 In a separate case not before this court, the State charged defendant with attempted armed robbery. On April 29, 2013, defendant entered a guilty plea in the attempted armed robbery case. The trial court admonished defendant of his right to a jury trial and defendant agreed to waive that right. The instant case was set for a jury trial on October 1, 2013. On August 12, 2013, defense counsel informed the court that defendant's attempted armed robbery case was set for sentencing that day. With regard to the status of the instant case, defense counsel stated, "It is also bench, Judge. We waived." From that point on, all references were to a bench trial. The record on appeal does not contain a written jury waiver in the instant case.

         ¶ 5 On October 29, 2013, the State filed a notice of intent to enhance sentencing upon conviction pursuant to section 111-3(c) of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (Code) (725 ILCS 5/111-3(c) (West 2010)). The State intended to seek a 15-year sentencing enhancement upon defendant's conviction under count I for possessing a firearm during the commission of the offense.

         ¶ 6 A bench trial began on February 7, 2014. The trial judge received testimony from Jacob McNamara concerning events that took place on July 2, 2011. McNamara explained that on July 2, 2011, at approximately 1 a.m., he stopped his vehicle at a Chase Bank automated teller machine (ATM) located in Frankfort, Illinois. At that time, McNamara spotted a silver sports utility vehicle (SUV) in the nearby parking lot. As McNamara finished his ATM transaction, someone stuck a black revolver in the window of his vehicle on the driver's side. McNamara first saw the gun when the assailant pointed it at his face about a foot away for at least a minute. McNamara stated that he knew the gun was a revolver because he saw a cylinder.

         ¶ 7 McNamara described the person who approached the car as a heavier set black male wearing a white T-shirt with another white T-shirt wrapped around his face. The person had longer hair, dreads or braids of some sort. The man took McNamara's money, ATM card, and pin number.

         ¶ 8 McNamara stated that as he left the parking lot, the same man stood in front of his car, again pointed the gun at him, and demanded his cell phone before stating, "don't make me kill you." McNamara complied. As he drove away, McNamara noticed that two people were seated in the silver SUV and the vehicle had no front license plate. McNamara did not describe the appearance of the second occupant of the silver SUV.

         ¶ 9 The State called Kevin Johnson, a police detective for the village of Frankfort police department, as its next witness. Johnson testified that on July 3, 2011, he was assigned to investigate an incident that occurred on July 2, 2011. Johnson testified that he learned the facts of the case from Jacob McNamara. McNamara told Johnson he had been robbed on July 2, 2011, at the Chase Bank in Frankfort, Illinois. Johnson described a black male weighing approximately 200 pounds, wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans, and tan boots. According to Johnson, still images from the ATM security camera corroborated McNamara's physical description of the man that approached him at the ATM. McNamara told Johnson the assailants drove a silver SUV, possibly a Toyota. Based on this description, Johnson put out a "critical reach flier." The flier contained information about the date and nature of the incident, along with vehicle and suspect information.

         ¶ 10 Greg Selin, an investigator for the Mokena police department, testified that on July 5, 2011, he, along with Detective Jeff Kowalczyk, had an opportunity to interview defendant about an armed robbery that took place on July 5, 2011. During this conversation, defendant admitted that he drove his silver Toyota to the Chase Bank in Mokena, Illinois, during the early morning hours of July 5, 2011. Once a car pulled up to the ATM, defendant said he approached the car intending to take money from the occupants. Defendant admitted that as he approached the woman in the car, he possessed a gun he had obtained from Chicago earlier that day. According to defendant, he held the gun down at his side, opened the back door of the car, but "froze up" when the females inside the car began screaming. As the car drove away, defendant ran back to his car parked in a nearby parking lot.

         ¶ 11 Following the interview by the Mokena investigators, officers from Frankfort interviewed defendant about both the July 5, 2011, incident at the Chase Bank in Mokena and the July 2, 2011, incident at the Chase Bank in Frankfort. At first, defendant denied knowledge of the Frankfort robbery. The detectives then explained that an armed robbery had taken place on July 2, 2011, in Frankfort. The detectives advised defendant they had a videotape of his car parked at the Chase Bank close in time to the armed robbery.

         ¶ 12 The detectives also explained that the armed robbery was caught on videotape and that they were confident defendant did not approach the victim on July 2, 2011; the man that approached the victim was much larger than defendant and heavily tattooed. However, the detectives had a video from the security camera at the bank that clearly showed the heavyset gunman was carrying defendant's gun on July 2, 2011. Defendant did not respond to the detectives' comment about the armed robber possessing defendant's firearm on July 2, 2011. However, defendant did admit that he and Anderson had robbed a person on July 2, 2011, in Frankfort.

         ¶ 13 Next, Chris Carlson, an officer with the Mokena police department, testified. Carlson testified that on July 5, 2011, at approximately midnight, he observed a silver SUV that pulled into the JC Penney's parking lot. After the vehicle left the parking lot on July 5, 2011, Carlson received a dispatch of an armed robbery that had just occurred at the Chase Bank in the same parking lot complex. Upon speaking with the victims at the Chase Bank, Carlson learned the assailants were driving either a white, or light-colored SUV. At this point, Carlson was informed that New Lenox police officers had stopped a vehicle matching the ...

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