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People v. Beck

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

June 18, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ANTERIUS BECK, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. No. 15 CR 13839 01 Honorable James B. Linn, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE MASON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Pucinski and Hyman concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          MASON, JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 Following a 2016 bench trial, defendant Anterius Beck was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm by a street gang member and 10 counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW), for which he was sentenced to five years' imprisonment. On appeal, Beck argues that (i) the State failed to present sufficient evidence to establish that the Black P. Stones[1]are a street gang as defined by the Illinois Streetgang Terrorism Omnibus Prevention Act (Act) (740 ILCS 147/10) (West 2014)); (ii) section 24-1.8 (a)(1), (b) of the Criminal Code of 2012 (720 ILCS 5/24-1.8(a)(1), (b) (West 2014)), under which he was convicted, is unconstitutional because it impermissibly criminalizes a defendant's status in violation of the eighth amendment; and (iii) the admission of a "certification" by the State to prove that he did not have a Concealed Carry License and Firearm Owner's Identification Card violated his sixth amendment right to confrontation. For the reasons that follow, we reverse Beck's conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm by a street gang member, affirm his convictions of AUUW, and remand for sentencing on the AUUW convictions.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Beck was charged with 1 count of unlawful possession of a firearm by a street gang member and 10 counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon after a police officer, during a foot chase on August 7, 2015, recovered a gun that Beck tossed to the ground.

         ¶ 4 At trial, three police officers from the Chicago Police Department gang investigation unit-Officers Albert Wyroba, Paul Heyden, and Apacible[2]-testified to the events of that day. At approximately 8 p.m. on August 7, Apacible and Wyroba were performing surveillance on the 700 block of North Lorel Avenue in Chicago, while Heyden was working as an enforcement officer in the same location. Apacible received information regarding a black male wearing a blue sweatshirt, white T-shirt, and red pants, who was seen in the area armed with a gun. Wyroba observed a man matching that description, identified in court as Beck, place a handgun into his front right pocket while standing among a crowd of approximately 20 other individuals. Wyroba alerted enforcement officers.

         ¶ 5 Heyden received the alert to detain Beck and exited his unmarked Chicago police vehicle, at which point Beck saw the officer and began running.

         ¶ 6 Heyden and Wyroba, who also saw Beck flee, immediately gave chase. As Beck headed west through a gangway, Apacible joined the pursuit. At this point, Beck took the gun out of his right pocket and threw it to the ground. Heyden recovered the gun while Apacible and Wyroba continued to give chase. Beck was ultimately detained at an elementary school by Apacible and Wyroba.

         ¶ 7 Heyden stood over the gun until another officer secured it, at which point it was unloaded, placed into a bag, and inventoried. The firearm was a 9-millimeter Ruger handgun with two rounds in the magazine. Beck was arrested and transported to the police station.

         ¶ 8 After Beck waived his Miranda rights, he spoke to two of the officers. Beck told the officers that he had been a member of the Black P. Stones for five years and he held the position as the "chief of the shorties" of the "L Town Black P. Stones" and that he had been blessed in by their chief.

         ¶ 9 Officer Wyroba testified based on his eight years' experience as a gang officer that to be "blessed" meant to become an active member of the Black P. Stones. Officer Wyroba further testified that the Black P. Stones are a street gang that controls the narcotics and weapons trade in an area on the west side of Chicago. That area included Kinzie to Iowa Streets, and Laramie to Central Avenues. Officer Wyroba testified that Beck had a tattoo on one of his forearms depicting the street signs of Lorel and Huron, which signified the Black P. Stones' control of the area. The State introduced into evidence a photograph depicting Beck's forearm tattoos.

         ¶ 10 The State also introduced into evidence a certified letter from the Illinois State Police Division of Administration stating that Beck had neither a Firearm Owner's Identification Card (FOID card) nor Concealed Carry License (CCL). Finally, the State offered into evidence a certified copy of Beck's adjudication of delinquency for robbery in case number 14 JD 03937. Beck did not object to the admission of either document.

         ¶ 11 After the State rested, the trial court denied Beck's motion for a directed finding. Beck rested without presenting any evidence.

         ¶ 12 The trial court found Beck guilty on all counts. The court merged the convictions and sentenced Beck to five years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, which he has fully served.[3] This appeal follows.

         ¶ 13 ANALYSIS

         ¶ 14 Initially, we address Beck's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence to convict him of unlawful possession of a weapon by a street gang member. A challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence requires us to view the trial evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and inquire whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (1979); People v. Smith, 185 Ill.2d 532, 541 (1999). A criminal conviction will not be reversed "unless the evidence is so improbable or unsatisfactory that it creates a reasonable doubt as to the defendant's guilt." People v. Graham, 392 Ill.App.3d 1001, 1009 (2009). It is ...


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