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People v. Johnson

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

February 16, 2018

SHANNON D. JOHNSON, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Montgomery County. No. 12-CF-7 Honorable Kelly D. Long, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant Michael J. Pelletier, State Appellate Defender, Ellen J. Curry, Deputy Defender, Ian C. Barnes, Assistant Appellate Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Fifth Judicial District, 909 Water Tower Circle, Mt. Vernon, IL 62864

          Attorneys for Appellee Hon. Christopher Matoush, State's Attorney, Montgomery County Courts Complex Building, 120 North Main Street, Hillsboro, IL 62049; Patrick Delfino, Director, David J. Robinson, Acting Deputy Director, Chelsea E. Kasten, Staff Attorney, Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, Fifth District Office, 730 E. Illinois Highway 15, Suite 2, P.O. Box 2249, Mt. Vernon, IL 62864

          JUSTICE CHAPMAN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Moore and Overstreet concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 The defendant, Shannon D. Johnson, pled guilty to one count of aggravated participation in methamphetamine manufacturing (720 ILCS 646/15(b)(1)(B) (West 2010)). He subsequently filed a pro se petition for relief from judgment. The court appointed a public defender to represent him. The public defender filed a motion to withdraw, arguing that there were no meritorious arguments for him to present. Six days before counsel's motion came for a hearing, the defendant filed a pro se postconviction petition. At a hearing on counsel's motion, the court allowed counsel to withdraw and appointed a new public defender to represent the defendant. The new public defender subsequently filed a motion to withdraw, asserting that she likewise found no meritorious arguments to present. The court granted the motion after a hearing and subsequently granted the State's motion to dismiss. The defendant appeals, arguing that the court's ruling deprived him of his statutory right to the reasonable assistance of postconviction counsel. We reverse.

         ¶ 2 In January 2012, police obtained a warrant to search the defendant's property. The warrant was supported by a tip from a confidential informant as well as police surveillance of the property. The informant told police that he had observed the defendant manufacturing methamphetamine in a camper with a codefendant, Renee Price. The search warrant authorized the search of property located at "315 West Barry Street, Witt, Montgomery County, Illinois, described as follows: A yellow vinyl-sided single-wide trailer with a white and yellow older camper trailer on the property and a white Dodge pickup truck."

         ¶ 3 When officers executed the search warrant, they discovered items used in the manufacture of methamphetamine in both the trailer and the camper; they did not find any incriminating evidence in the pickup truck. On January 9, 2012, the State filed a two-count information, charging the defendant with aggravated participation in methamphetamine manufacturing (id.) and participation in methamphetamine manufacturing (id. § 15(a)(1)).

         ¶ 4 On August 16, 2012, the defendant filed a motion to suppress evidence and quash his arrest. He alleged that, although the camper searched by police matched the physical description of the camper identified in the search warrant, it was not located on 315 West Barry Street, the property identified in the warrant. He argued that the search therefore violated the "particularity requirement" of the fourth amendment. See People v. Gonzalez, 316 Ill.App.3d 354, 360 (2000) (explaining that a search warrant "must state with particularity the place to be searched").

         ¶ 5 On the same day, the defendant filed a motion to disclose the identity of the confidential informant. He alleged that the informant's "credibility was at stake at the time of the issuance of the search warrant." He requested the disclosure of information about the confidential source, including what, if any, incentives were offered to him to engage in controlled buys or conduct surveillance of the defendant, his criminal history, and whether any charges were pending against him at the time he provided information about the defendant to police.

         ¶ 6 The following day, August 17, the court held a motion hearing. Inspector Justin Gonzalez of the Southern Illinois Drug Task Force was the sole witness. He testified that the confidential informant described the camper in detail and told police that the defendant and Renee Price were cooking methamphetamine in it. Inspector Gonzalez further testified that he had been informed both that the defendant owned the camper and that he was using it to manufacture methamphetamine.

         ¶ 7 Defense counsel attempted to ask Inspector Gonzalez questions related to the reliability of the confidential source. However, the State objected to these questions on the basis of relevance. In response, defense counsel reminded the court that there was an issue concerning the informant's credibility. The court asked counsel where in his motion to suppress those allegations were, to which counsel replied, "It's not in my motion." The court sustained the objections.

         ¶ 8 Inspector Gonzalez was shown an aerial photograph taken a few days before the hearing. In the photograph, the camper appeared to be located on a property across the street from the defendant's property. Inspector Gonzalez stated that the camper was "definitely" not in that location when he executed the search warrant. He described the location of the camper in detail. He testified that the camper was parked near a fire pit, which was located between the camper and the trailer. He further testified that a cable was set up as a dog run, with one end of the cable attached to the camper and the other end attached to the trailer. Inspector Gonzalez noted that he included this description in his police report. He acknowledged that he did not know the precise location of the property line.

         ¶ 9 After Inspector Gonzalez testified, the court indicated that the description of the camper included in the search warrant was sufficiently specific to support a valid warrant. However, the court did not rule on the defendant's motion prior to taking a recess. After the recess, the defendant withdrew his motion to suppress and waived his right to a jury trial. Defense counsel indicated that he anticipated that the defendant would plead guilty. On September 26, 2012, the defendant pled guilty pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement. In accordance with the agreement, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, a $3000 drug assessment fee, and the forfeiture of his truck.

         ¶ 10 On June 18, 2013, the defendant filed a pro se petition for relief from judgment pursuant to section 2-1401 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1401 (West 2012)). He alleged that he did not own or occupy the property where the evidence was found and that trial counsel was aware of this fact. He alleged that he provided trial counsel with the name of the person who owned the camper and the names of individuals who could testify as to the precise location of the property line, but counsel never contacted these individuals. He further alleged that when Renee Price pled guilty, she admitted that all of the methamphetamine-manufacturing items found on the property belonged to her, not the defendant. The defendant alleged that there was no evidentiary hearing to address these issues. Finally, he alleged that the truck was seized without any evidence that it had been used for illegal activity.

         ¶ 11 Along with his section 2-1401 petition, the defendant filed a motion for the appointment of counsel. On July 22, 2013, the State filed a motion to strike the defendant's section 2-1401 petition, arguing that (1) the petition did not allege any information that was not available to the trial court during plea proceedings and (2) the petition raised "procedural issues with counsel, " which were not appropriate for a section 2-1401 petition. At a July 22 hearing, the court granted the defendant's motion and appointed Public Defender David Grigsby to represent him.

         ¶ 12 On December 8, 2013, Grigsby filed a motion to withdraw. He argued that the defendant's petition was, in substance, a postconviction petition. Grigsby noted that during the plea proceedings, the defendant did not object to the factual basis for his plea and did not move to withdraw his plea. Moreover, when asked by the court if he was happy with the representation of plea counsel, the defendant said "Yes." Grigsby asserted that, based on his review of the record, he could find no basis to argue that the defendant's plea was the result of a substantial denial of a constitutional right, as is required under the Post-Conviction Hearing Act (725 ILCS 5/122-1 et seq. (West 2012)).

         ¶ 13 While Grigsby's motion to withdraw was pending, the defendant filed three pro se pleadings. On December 27, 2013, he filed a motion for leave to amend. In it, he asked the court for leave to amend, and stated, "Defendant moves this Honorable Court for Post-Conviction relief." On February 21, 2014, he filed a pro se postconviction petition and a pro se motion, requesting the appointment of a different attorney. In his postconviction petition, the defendant asserted that the trial court did not make an adequate inquiry into the factual basis for his plea, that he was "pressured" into pleading guilty because his attorney believed that was the "only possible outcome, " and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. The defendant advanced three arguments in support of his ineffective assistance claim. He argued that the camper was not on his property at the time it was searched, although the ...

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