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Rodriguez v. Brady

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Third District

June 6, 2017

ESTEBAN CARRILLO RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
JERRY BRADY, in His Official Capacity as Peoria County State's Attorney, Defendant-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois, Circuit No. 16-SC-478 Honorable Katherine S. Gorman, Judge, Presiding.

          Presiding Justice Holdridge and Justice Carter concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          O'BRIEN JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Plaintiff, Esteban Carrillo Rodriguez, filed a complaint in small claims court seeking the return of money that had been seized from him upon arrest and subsequently subjected to civil forfeiture. Defendant is Jerry Brady, the Peoria County State's Attorney, whose office executed the civil forfeiture. Plaintiff argued in his complaint that the notice of forfeiture sent to his home address was constitutionally insufficient where defendant knew or should have known that plaintiff was in the Kane County jail after being arrested in Peoria County. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the small claim, which the circuit court granted. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 Plaintiff filed a small claims complaint in the Peoria County circuit court against defendant. In the complaint, plaintiff alleged that "without proof of notice and contrary to statute, the Peoria County State's Attorney deprived the Plaintiff of his $5, 335.00." Within the complaint, plaintiff made a number of supporting factual allegations. Plaintiff alleged that he was arrested on October 7, 2008, in Peoria County, pursuant to a Kane County warrant. Plaintiff was in possession of $5335 at the time of his arrest, and that money was seized by arresting officers. After plaintiff had made numerous attempts to recoup his seized assets, the Kane County circuit court ordered the return of the money on January 30, 2014. Subsequently, plaintiff received a letter from the Kane County State's Attorney's office notifying him that the Aurora police department would be returning his money.

         ¶ 4 On March 5, 2014, the Kane County State's Attorney's office filed a motion seeking vacatur of the circuit court's previous order. In the motion, the Kane County State's Attorney's office alleged that the Peoria County State's Attorney had executed a declaration of forfeiture on the money in question prior to the court's order. The circuit court granted the motion. Plaintiff subsequently wrote to the Peoria County circuit court, seeking a copy of the notice of forfeiture that was allegedly mailed to him. In response, plaintiff received a letter from the Peoria County State's Attorney's office informing him that notice of forfeiture had been mailed to him on November 19, 2014. The correspondence included a copy of the declaration of forfeiture, as well as a copy of the return receipt of the certified mailing of the notice of forfeiture. The declaration of forfeiture showed that notice was first mailed on November 11, 2008. The copy of the certified mail envelope showed that attempts were made on three dates to deliver the notice to plaintiff at 18 W. 204 Knollwood Lane in Villa Park.

         ¶ 5 Plaintiff further alleged in his complaint that he had remained in continuous custody from the date of his arrest in October 2008. After receiving the above correspondence from the Peoria County State's Attorney's office, plaintiff contacted the Kane County jail, where he was residing throughout November 2008. The jail had no record of any mail addressed to plaintiff.

         ¶ 6 Plaintiff concluded that the Peoria County State's Attorney's notice of forfeiture was insufficient, where the office knew or should have known that plaintiff was in jail and not in his home in Villa Park. Absent proper notice, plaintiff argued, the executed forfeiture of the $5335 in question was nothing more than a conversion.

         ¶ 7 Plaintiff attached to his complaint a number of exhibits that verified his factual allegations. The exhibits included the judgment from the Kane County circuit court ordering the return of $5335, as well as a copy of the letter sent by the Kane County State's Attorney's office to plaintiff informing him that the Aurora police department would be returning the money. Also attached was the letter from the Peoria County State's Attorney's office, as well as copies of the declaration of forfeiture and the notice of forfeiture and its return receipt.

         ¶ 8 Defendant filed a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint. In the motion, defendant alleged that plaintiff was arrested in Peoria County on October 7, 2008, "pursuant to a warrant by deputy U.S. Marshals and Aurora, IL law enforcement personnel." The motion further alleged that $5335 was seized from plaintiff as suspected proceeds of a drug transaction. Plaintiff gave his address to arresting officers as 18 W. 204 Knollwood Lane, Villa Park, Illinois.

         ¶ 9 Defendant's allegations were supported by an Aurora police department report, which defendant attached to his motion. That police report described in detail a joint operation between Aurora police officers and United States Marshals to apprehend plaintiff in Peoria County. At the time of the arrest, plaintiff was in possession of $5335 in cash. The report showed that plaintiff was transported to the Aurora police department upon his arrest. The $5335 was placed into the evidence safe at the Aurora police department. The police report explained that plaintiff had been the "middle man for a drug transaction involving 5 kilos of cocaine." An inventory of seized property form, also attached to defendant's motion, showed that the money was later deposited into Old Second National Bank in Aurora. That same form listed "Peoria County" as a 25% participant in the seizure.

         ¶ 10 Defendant alleged that notice of forfeiture was sent to plaintiff at the given address, in compliance with statute. Following a 45-day period, the money in question was declared forfeited. Defendant concluded: "the Plaintiff was notified in accordance with the statute and he no longer has a basis in law for the return of that money to him."

         ¶ 11 Following a telephonic conference between the court, plaintiff, and counsel for defendant, the court granted defendant's motion to dismiss. The ensuing written order declares that the court "grants the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss." Notably, defendant's motion to dismiss did not specify a particular section of the civil code under which dismissal was ...


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