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People v. Casler

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fifth District

July 1, 2019

RASHEED CASLER, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, No. 15-CF-228; the Hon. Kimberly L. Dahlen, Judge, presiding.

          James E. Chadd, Ellen J. Curry, and Daniel R. Janowski, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Mt. Vernon, for appellant.

          Michael Carr, State's Attorney, of Murphysboro (Patrick Delfino, Patrick D. Daly, and Jennifer Camden, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

          Panel OVERSTREET PRESIDING JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Chapman and Moore concurred in the judgment and opinion.



         ¶ 1 The defendant, Rasheed Casler, appeals his November 10, 2015, conviction, following a jury trial in the circuit court of Jackson County, which found him guilty of obstructing justice in violation of section 31-4(a) of the Criminal Code of 2012 (720 ILCS 5/31-4(a) (West 2014)). He was sentenced on January 20, 2016. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 FACTS

         ¶ 3 On June 23, 2015, the defendant was charged by information with, inter alia, obstructing justice (id.).[1] The information alleged that the defendant knowingly, with the intent to prevent his arrest on warrants, provided false information to Sergeant Guy Draper by telling him that his name was Jakuta King Williams. A jury trial was held on November 9 and 10, 2015. Our recitation of the evidence presented at trial is limited to that which is relevant to obstructing justice-the only charge at issue on appeal.

         ¶ 4 Guy Draper testified that he is employed as a sergeant with the Carbondale Police Department. After summarizing his curriculum vitae, Draper testified that some of his duties include supervising the midnight shift from 10:30 p.m. through 8:30 a.m. During the midnight shift on March 6, 2015, Draper was on duty, conducting foot patrols at various hotels throughout Carbondale. At 12:45 a.m. on that date, he and Officer Blake Harsy were both in uniform and on foot patrol at Quality Inn. Draper testified that, while patrolling the hallway of the second floor, Harsy "was just a little bit behind me." As they approached room 210, the door opened quickly, and Draper observed "a black male emerge from the hotel room, look at me, pause for a second, and then slam the door and go back into the room." Draper noticed that the man was wearing a green hoodie. Draper testified that he "recognized him as being someone I had dealings with prior" but "it was just a brief window" so he "wasn't sure who it was." Draper identified the defendant as the individual who opened the door of room 210.

         ¶ 5 Draper testified that, when the door slammed shut, Harsy smelled the odor of burnt cannabis emerging from the hotel room. Draper approached the door and immediately noticed the odor as well. Draper testified that he knocked on the door and, after about five seconds, a female later identified as Brianna Wyatt opened the door. Draper noticed the smell of cannabis was stronger at that point, but he did not enter the room immediately. From his vantage point in the doorway, Draper observed the layout of the room, which he described as a "typical hotel room." Draper saw two males in the room, one on each bed and both of whom he instantly recognized, and two females seated in opposite corners of the room, neither of whom he recognized. The males were identified as Torrion Creer and Desmine Schauf and the females as Brianna Wyatt-who had opened the door-and Shanique Lincoln. Draper requested additional officers for backup when he realized how many people were in the room. He stated that Creer, Schauf, and Wyatt were "real interested [sic] in leaving the room" but he did not allow them to do so.

         ¶ 6 Draper testified that his attention was directed to the bathroom because he did not see the defendant in the hotel room and the bathroom door was closed. Draper explained that he previously witnessed people in hotel rooms hide in the bathrooms because they "have warrants or probable cause for their arrest" or they sometimes go to the bathrooms "to seek refuge[, ] to attempt to destroy evidence[, ] or hide stuff." Draper testified that, when he did not see the defendant in the hotel room, he directed his attention toward the bathroom door. Draper explained that he was still standing in the hotel room doorway during this time and he knocked on the opened hotel room door-not the bathroom door-and identified himself as a police officer before addressing the person in the bathroom as follows: "Anybody in the bathroom, identify yourself."

         ¶ 7 Draper testified that the defendant responded in so many words that he was defecating. Draper again commanded the defendant to identify himself, and the defendant responded that his name was Jakuta King Williams. When Draper asked the defendant for identification, the defendant replied that he had no identification but said that he was from Virginia. Draper testified that Officer Harsy relayed the name Jakuta King Williams to the dispatch center but no record of any such person was found. Draper indicated that the defendant initially fooled him by giving him the false name.

         ¶ 8 Draper testified that he ordered the defendant to open the door so he could see him and know what he was doing. Draper also told him that if he flushed the toilet Draper would come into the bathroom and seize him. Draper explained that, if the toilet flushed, he would assume that the defendant was trying to get rid of whatever he did not want Draper to find. Draper testified that, because of the odor of cannabis in the hotel room, he thought the defendant was attempting to hide cannabis in the bathroom. Draper testified on cross-examination that he did not hear the defendant flush the toilet and, as far as Draper knew, the defendant did not try to destroy any evidence while in the bathroom.

         ¶ 9 Draper informed the defendant that the officers were not leaving until they confirmed his identity. Draper testified that when the defendant emerged from the bathroom he had a chance to look at him for a period of time and recognized him because he had previously arrested him. When he recognized the defendant, Draper asked him, "Are you sure you're not Rasheed Casler?" Draper testified that the defendant did not respond and at that point "he stopped looking at me." Draper noted that the defendant was not wearing the green hoodie when he emerged from the bathroom.

         ¶ 10 One of the officers relayed the name Rasheed Casler to the dispatch center, which alerted that the defendant had an outstanding warrant. Accordingly, Draper arrested the defendant. Draper conceded on cross-examination that, once he realized there was a warrant on the defendant, nothing interfered with his ability to apprehend him, nor did the defendant attempt to fight him or run from him. Draper testified that, when he looked in the bathroom after the defendant emerged, he observed toilet paper in the toilet but did not see any human waste or contraband. When asked if the defendant was drunk when he encountered him, Draper replied, "I don't know. I don't think so."

         ¶ 11 Draper testified that the registered tenant of the hotel room eventually arrived and consented to a search of the room. Draper participated in the search, located a green hoodie lying on the far bed, and confirmed that it was the one the defendant was wearing when he opened the hotel room door and stepped into the hallway. Draper testified that he stood by as Sergeant David Kemp searched the hoodie and discovered in the pocket, inter alia, a wallet containing the defendant's Illinois identification card bearing the name Rasheed Casler.

         ¶ 12 Shanique Lincoln testified that she was with the defendant in the hotel on the date in question. She recalled the defendant opening the hotel room door and going to the bathroom afterwards, but she could not recall if the defendant was wearing a green hoodie when he opened the door because she was "under the influence" from drinking tequila and smoking marijuana and could not remember many details. Lincoln agreed that she spoke to a police officer and submitted a written statement but qualified that she "felt forced, pushed into it" because she was arrested that night for possession of cannabis and she felt frightened and threatened. Lincoln's statement was published to the jury, over objection. She asserted in the statement, inter alia, that the defendant "looked out the door and said wo [sic] and closed the door."

         ¶ 13 David Kemp testified that he is employed as a sergeant with the Carbondale Police Department. He reported that he was present at Quality Inn on March 6, 2015, a little before 1 a.m. and conducted a search of room 210. During the search, he located a green hoodie, in which he discovered, inter alia, a wallet containing an Illinois driver's license bearing the name Rasheed Casler. Kemp confirmed that Draper was standing right beside him during the search "[a]nd as I pulled those items out of the pocket of the ...

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