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People v. Sturgeon

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

April 12, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DONALD E. STURGEON, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Logan County, No. 16-CF-9; the Hon. William G. Workman, Judge, presiding.

          James E. Chadd, Patricia Mysza, and Joshua M. Bernstein, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Jonathan Wright, State's Attorney, of Lincoln (Patrick Delfino, David J. Robinson, and Allison Paige Brooks, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

          Panel JUSTICE STEIGMANN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Holder White and Justice Knecht concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          STEIGMANN JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 In February 2016, the State charged defendant, Donald E. Sturgeon, with (count I) unlawful participation in methamphetamine manufacturing in that defendant knowingly participated in the manufacture of 900 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine, (count II) aggravated unlawful participation in methamphetamine manufacturing in that defendant knowingly participated in the manufacture of 400 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine and the manufacturing occurred within 1000 feet of a school, (count III) unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors, and (count IV) unlawful possession of methamphetamine with the intent to deliver. 720 ILCS 646/15(a)(2)(E), 15(a)(2)(D), 15(b)(1)(H), 20(a)(2)(C), 55(a)(2)(A) (West 2016).

         ¶ 2 In September 2016, a jury found defendant not guilty of count I but guilty of counts II, III, and IV. In November 2016, the trial court sentenced defendant to 45 years in prison for count II, 45 years in prison for count III, and 14 years in prison for count IV and ordered the sentences to run concurrently.

         ¶ 3 Defendant appeals, arguing that (1) the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt for aggravated participation in the manufacture of 400 or more grams of methamphetamine within 1000 feet of a school, (2) he received ineffective assistance of counsel, (3) the trial court erred during sentencing by considering his drug addiction as an "aggravating" factor, (4) the trial court erred by "punishing" him for going to trial after he rejected the State's guilty plea offer, and (5) the trial court erred by not identifying various fines and fees which it imposed. We affirm.

         ¶ 4 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 5 A. The Charges Against Defendant

         ¶ 6 In February 2016, the State charged defendant with (count I) unlawful participation in methamphetamine manufacturing in that defendant knowingly participated in the manufacture of 900 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine, (count II) aggravated unlawful participation in methamphetamine manufacturing in that defendant knowingly participated in the manufacture of 400 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine and the manufacturing occurred within 1000 feet of a school, (count III) unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors, and (count IV) unlawful possession of methamphetamine with the intent to deliver. Id.

         ¶ 7 B. The Rule 402 Conference

         ¶ 8 In August 2016, the trial court conducted a conference pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 402(d) (eff. July 1, 2012) ("Upon request by the defendant and with the agreement of the prosecutor, the trial judge may participate in plea discussions.").

         ¶ 9 At the conference, in exchange for defendant's pleading guilty to count I, the State offered to dismiss counts II, III, and IV and agree to a 25-year prison sentence. The trial court noted that based upon the information in the complaint and defendant's prior criminal history, the court was "more inclined to sentence [defendant] in the extended term range of at least 30 years, if not more." Ultimately, defendant rejected the State's offer, and a jury trial was conducted.

         ¶ 10 C. The Jury Trial

         ¶ 111. Sergeant Robert Sherren

         ¶ 12 In September 2016, at defendant's jury trial, Sergeant Robert Sherren of the Lincoln Police Department testified that defendant and Ashley Davis were suspected of using and manufacturing methamphetamine. Sherren stated that on the evening of January 14, 2016, he saw a vehicle pull into the driveway of the residence located at 1006 7th Street, Lincoln, Illinois (hereinafter the residence). Sherren observed defendant get out of the vehicle and ordered him to get on the ground. Sherren stated that defendant "took off running" but that Sherren caught him a few moments later. Sherren testified that defendant had "thrown an object" during the chase and that a jar containing a white powdery substance was later found where the chase had occurred. Sherren stated that after defendant was subdued, he was handcuffed and placed into the back of a police car. Sherren testified that another officer believed he smelled methamphetamine at the residence.

         ¶ 13 On cross-examination, Sherren noted that Brandon Lovelett and Robyn Johnson lived at the residence and that Rodney Lovelett was the brother of Brandon Lovelett. Sherren stated that when he pulled into the driveway, one of the Lovelett boys was in the driveway.

         ¶ 14 2. Officer Ryan Sullivan

         ¶ 15 Officer Ryan Sullivan, a patrol officer with the Lincoln Police Department, stated that he was investigating activities related to methamphetamine manufacturing on January 14, 2016. Sullivan testified that, after a vehicle pulled into the residence, defendant ran out of the vehicle and Sherren caught him. Sullivan further testified that he then searched defendant and found "a clear plastic sandwich bag with multiple white pills." He stated that there were approximately 50 pills, and he found no evidence of a prescription.

         ¶ 16 3. Rodney Lovelett

         ¶ 17 Rodney Lovelett testified that he was currently in custody and had five pending criminal charges against him, including conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia, and unlawful possession of hypodermic needles. He stated that he had a prior conviction for threatening a public official and, in January 2016, he was on parole for that offense.

         ¶ 18 Rodney testified that in April 2016, he entered into a cooperation agreement with the State. In exchange for his testimony, he would plead guilty to a new charge of unlawful possession of methamphetamine precursors and that the charge for methamphetamine conspiracy would be dismissed. He noted that he would receive a 5½-year prison sentence.

         ¶ 19 Rodney stated that both he and Brandon, his brother, were arrested on January 14, 2016. Rodney testified that Brandon and Robyn Johnson were living at the residence in January 2016. Rodney stated that he used to live at the residence but had recently moved out prior to defendant's arrest. Rodney described the general layout of the residence.

         ¶ 20 Rodney admitted that he used heroin and methamphetamine on January 14, 2016. He testified that defendant had given him the methamphetamine and prevented him from entering a room where methamphetamine was later discovered. Rodney further testified that he told the police that there might be a methamphetamine lab in the residence after defendant was arrested.

         ¶ 21 On cross-examination, Rodney admitted to being a drug addict and that using drugs altered his thoughts and perception. He also admitted that he did not originally implicate defendant. Rodney testified that he had never been to prison and did not want to go there. He noted that he was originally charged with a Class X felony with a 15-year minimum, 60-year maximum sentence that would be served at 75%. He further noted that as a result of his cooperation agreement, he would be sentenced only to 5½ years in prison, to be served at 50%.

         ¶ 22 4. Ashley Davis

         ¶ 23 Ashley Davis stated that she was currently in custody and that she entered into a cooperation agreement with the State in September 2016. She noted that as a result of the agreement, she would plead guilty to unlawful possession of a methamphetamine precursor and that the State would dismiss a methamphetamine conspiracy charge.

         ¶ 24 Davis noted that on January 14, 2016, she had used methamphetamine with defendant in a bedroom at the residence. She stated that the bedroom had Gatorade bottles and funnels. She testified that later that day, she observed defendant placing methamphetamine into little plastic bags. She further stated that later that evening, she and defendant were arrested at the residence.

         ¶ 25 On cross-examination, Davis conceded that she was a methamphetamine addict and that she used methamphetamine on January 14, 2016. She noted that she did not implicate defendant until August 2016. She conceded that as a result of her September 2016 cooperation agreement with the State, the amount of time she would spend in prison had been drastically reduced.

         ¶ 26 5. Special Agent Brian Hayes

         ¶ 27 Brian Hayes testified that he was a special agent with the Illinois State Police and was assigned to the Methamphetamine Response Team. Hayes stated that he was dispatched to the residence. He stated that in one of the bedrooms, he found sulfuric acid, lye, salt, tubing, pliers, stripped lithium batteries, Gatorade bottles, camp fuel, funnels, coffee filters, and a box of cold packs. Hayes testified that, based on his experience, these materials were commonly used in the production of methamphetamine.

         ¶ 28 Hayes testified that he found two methamphetamine "cooks" at the residence. Hayes noted that he found a Gatorade bottle in a bedroom, which he believed was used for making methamphetamine. Hayes stated that he weighed the substance inside the bottle and photographed the weighing process. Pictures that the trial court admitted into evidence purported to show that the substance inside the bottle weighed 550.3 grams. Hayes stated that he took a representative sample of the substance but that the remainder of the substance was destroyed pursuant to safety protocol. A picture of the representative sample was introduced into evidence as State's exhibit 34. Regarding how he weighed the substance, Hayes testified as follows on direct examination:

"Q. Did you seek to weigh the contents of that [bottle]?
A. Yes.
Q. How do you go about doing that?
A. I take a-I get my scale out. I check the internal components of it with weights. Then I take a sterile vessel. I will place it on the scale, record the weights on a *** worksheet, as well as photograph it. Then I will empty the contents of the bottle into that same vessel and record that weight, subtract the empty weight from the total weight, which gives me my net weight of the contents.
Q. You did that in this case with this [bottle]?
A. Correct.
Q. And you calibrated this machine before you used it?
A. Not necessarily calibrated it, but I just checked it against the known weights."

         ¶ 29 Hayes stated that he found additional bottles in a bathroom that he believed contained methamphetamine. Pictures that the trial court admitted into evidence purported to show that the substance inside the bottles weighed 560.9 grams. Hayes stated that he took a representative sample of the substance but that the remainder was destroyed for safety purposes. A picture of this representative sample was introduced into evidence as exhibit 38.

         ¶ 30 On cross-examination, Hayes noted that he did not attempt to lift fingerprints from the crime scene. Defense counsel did not cross-examine Hayes regarding how he ensured that the scale he used to weigh the substance was working properly.

         ¶ 31 6. Inspector Joseph Meister

         ¶ 32 Inspector Joseph Meister of the Lincoln Police Department testified that he found defendant's state identification card in the bedroom where methamphetamine was found. Meister stated that he also found an electric grinder that had pseudoephedrine residue inside it.

         ¶ 33 Meister testified that the residence was "about 609 feet" away from Jefferson Elementary School. However, Meister never testified how he determined the distance between the residence and the elementary school. Instead, his only testimony regarding that distance was as follows:

"Q. As part of your investigation in this case, did you investigate whether 1006 7th Street [Lincoln, Illinois, ] was in proximity to any locations that are considered to be an aggravating factor?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. And what did your investigation ...

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