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People v. Scott

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

February 23, 2018

CHARLES ADRIAN SCOTT, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 15-CF-757 Honorable Ronald J. White, Judge, Presiding.

          JUSTICE JORGENSEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Schostok and Spence concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 Defendant, Charles Adrian Scott, appeals from his conviction of a single count of possession with intent to deliver at least 100, but less than 400, grams of a substance containing cocaine (720 ILCS 570/401(a)(2)(B) (West 2014)). He contends that the State's evidence was insufficient to sustain the conviction in that it failed to show that he knew that a parcel that he accepted contained cocaine. We hold that the State's evidence was sufficient, especially considering the implausibility of defendant's testimony, which we hold we may consider when we evaluate the sufficiency of the evidence as a whole. We therefore affirm.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Defendant had a jury trial on the one count of which he was later convicted. The State's evidence showed that, on March 31, 2015, Alexander Lupiani, a postal inspector at O'Hare Airport, noticed that a parcel addressed to "Jameka Simms" at 1104 Cedar Street in Rockford, from "Tamika Simms" in Tempe, Arizona, had what he deemed to be "excessive tape, " a characteristic that he associated with the mailing of narcotics. He further noted that the return address included a nonexistent house number and that Arizona was "one of several states that is a source for narcotics." Lupiani arranged for a narcotics dog from the customs service to sniff the parcel. The dog alerted to the parcel, so Lupiani obtained a warrant to open it. Inspectors found that it contained a total of about 2300 grams of a "white powdery substance" formed into two bricks. These bricks were under a bag of toys that was contained in a separate box inside the parcel.

         ¶ 4 The postal inspectors decided to remove all but about 150 grams of the substance and make a "controlled delivery" of the parcel. They replaced the missing powder with baby wipes, fitted the parcel with a GPS unit and a beacon to broadcast an alarm when the parcel was opened, brushed on a fine powder that is visible under ultraviolet light, and resealed the parcel. On April 1, 2015, the postal inspectors, in cooperation with the Rockford police, established surveillance positions around 1104 Cedar Street, which was a two-story single-family house. William Scott (William), a postal inspector, dressed as a mail carrier to make the delivery and carried a cell phone set up to act as a one-way radio link. The State introduced into evidence a recording of the transmission over that link. William arrived at the door somewhat before noon. Defendant answered the door. William asked defendant if he knew a Tamika Simms. Defendant said that he was unfamiliar with that name. William offered to leave a postal delivery slip for defendant to leave for the parcel's proper recipient. After noting that his girlfriend was at work, defendant agreed to sign for and accept the parcel. On the recording, defendant seems to say that the parcel might have something to do with his "old lady." William told him that, if the parcel "was not for anybody at the address[, he should] just return [it] to the post office." Defendant signed for the delivery as "Charles Scott, " using his real name. After making the delivery, William used the cell phone link to give the other officers a detailed description of defendant.

         ¶ 5 According to Mark Jimenez, a detective with the Rockford police who assisted the postal inspectors, William delivered the parcel at 11:42 a.m. At 11:45 a.m., defendant and another male (his nephew, Antonio Williams) exited the house through the back. Jimenez recognized defendant as the person whom William had described. Defendant stayed on the back deck briefly while talking on the phone. He and Williams then got into a red pickup truck. They stayed in the stationary truck from 11:45 a.m. to "probably" 12:08 p.m. and then drove away in it, returning two minutes later. Jimenez testified that he was close enough to the truck to hear its engine, but he did not hear the engine being cranked until just before it was driven away. Jimenez saw defendant and Williams leave a second time and return after about 10 minutes. Just before a postal inspector announced that the beacon in the parcel had been triggered, Jimenez saw Williams leave the house alone and walk north on the sidewalk. Jimenez arrested Williams "further down the block on Cedar Street to the west" while most of the other officers were raiding the house.

         ¶ 6 According to other testimony, the beacon went into alarm mode at about 1:15 p.m. Defendant was then inside; Williams was in the backyard. The officers surrounded the house, with one group going to the front door. At about 1:18 p.m., they announced themselves as police and demanded entry. About 20 seconds later, just as the officers were about to open the door by force, defendant opened the door to them.

         ¶ 7 The officers searched the house and found no one but defendant inside. They found the parcel upstairs on a bed with both the outer and inner boxes opened. A few items in the bag of toys were displaced, but the package that held the baby wipes and the remaining cocaine was not exposed. The officers found a loaded handgun at the side of the bed in another bedroom and additional ammunition in the closet. They found another handgun concealed in the living room couch. (Both guns had been purchased by defendant's girlfriend, Betsy Caviness, who had a valid FOID card, but the officers did not learn that until later.) Clothing that the officers found in the bedrooms suggested occupancy by multiple people, both male and female. Some of the clothing was defendant's. When the officers searched the kitchen, they found a digital cooking scale in its box, latex gloves, nine boxes of small plastic bags, and a heat sealer. On testing, the scale proved to have a cocaine-containing "powder residue *** under the glass weighing area and also on the number[ ] keys."

         ¶ 8 Defendant spoke to officers at the scene. He told them that he and Williams were downstairs when he opened the parcel and that he had opened it about half an hour before the officers arrived. After this brief interview at the house, officers took defendant to the Rockford Police Department. In a longer interview there, he told them that his permanent residence was with his sister on Blinn Street but that he often spent nights at 1104 Cedar with Caviness. He kept most of his possessions at the Cedar Street house because his sister's boyfriend was a thief; he also sometimes received mail there. The heat sealer was a gift from his mother, but everything else the police discovered belonged to others. He had not known that there was cocaine in the parcel. He had previously received parcels at the house that were addressed to people unknown to him. The last such parcel he had taken to "a mailbox store" and "delivered it to return to sender." This time, he opened the package, but only because "[h]e was curious to see what was inside."

         ¶ 9 Robert Reffett, a Rockford narcotics detective, testified that cocaine users would rarely possess more than a gram of cocaine at a time. The approximately 150 grams of cocaine delivered to defendant was "a large quantity of cocaine, " with a street value of "right around $14, 800." The presence of firearms, multiple boxes of sandwich baggies, a heat sealer, latex gloves, and a digital scale were all consistent with the business of breaking up large quantities of cocaine for sale in smaller lots.

         ¶ 10 Defendant was the sole defense witness. He testified that he "live[d] with Betsy Caviness [on Cedar Street], but [his] personal address [was] at [his] sister's house." "That's the address I am back and forth in between. That address is my girlfriend's, and my address with-you know, with my belongings there." His daughter, son, and grandson also lived with Caviness. He was the only resident at home late on the morning of April 1, 2015, but "Tony" (Williams) was also present after about 11:10 a.m. He and Williams were close and often spent time together.

         ¶ 11 Defendant thought that the parcel had been delivered at "11:30, 11:40. Give or take a few minutes." As far as he could tell, the person who delivered it was an ordinary mail carrier. The supposed mail carrier asked him if " 'Jawanna' Sims [sic]" lived there, and defendant responded, "[N]obody by that name live here." He knew neither a " 'Jawanna' Sims [sic]" nor a "Tamika Sims [sic]." He was not expecting a parcel that day and had not known what was in it.

         ¶ 12 Defense counsel asked defendant why he signed for the parcel if he did not know the addressee. Defendant responded, "The mail carrier said *** you can take this card and have somebody pick it up or either you can take the package right now. I say, 'Well, what do you think?' He says, 'Well, you want to take the package?' I say, 'I don't, but I will.' " Defense counsel asked him if he said anything to the mail carrier about Caviness. Defendant responded, "I told him that she might know the person who the package was going to, I didn't, and I told him that if he wanted to leave it, you know, I will take it."

         ¶ 13 Defendant took the parcel and put it on a chair in the downstairs den. He and Williams then discussed a car nearby that Williams thought was for sale, which was of interest to the two of them because they sometimes fixed up cars and resold them. Defense counsel asked defendant to describe the departures and arrivals from the house. The following testimony resulted:

"Q. What did you and your nephew do?
A. We got in my sister's truck. We drove down the street because the car was just about a block down the street by the corner. We looked. There was no for sale sign on the car. He said there was. Nobody in the car. We went back down Preston, back down Tate, back down Cedar Street, and pulled back into the driveway.
Q. That was the first time that you left the house; is that correct?
A. Right.
Q. After you went and looked at this car, what did you and your nephew do?
A. Okay. We went back into the house. We come back out. My sister's truck have problem starting. So it wouldn't start for a couple minutes. So we sit in the truck. When we got the truck started, we was headed over towards my mom's house, but my daughter had called me while we was headed that way and said somebody had hit my mom or did something to my mom.
Q. Okay. It was based on that conversation that you and [your] nephew were then headed towards your mom's?
A. Right.
Q. You had mentioned-we heard testimony from Detective Jimenez that at one point you and your nephew were seen seated in the truck for a couple minutes.
A. That's when it wouldn't start.
Q. Ultimately were you able to get the truck to start?
A. Yeah, her truck do that. When you first crank it up in the morning and you drive it, it cuts off, and then it won't start for a while.
Q. So based on your conversation with your sister or your ...

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