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People v. Schnoor

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

November 12, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
VINCENT P. SCHNOOR Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County No. 15CF1189 Honorable Ryan M. Cadagin, Judge Presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: James E. Chadd, Patricia Mysza, and John R. Breffeilh, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for appellant.

          Attorneys for Appellee: Daniel K. Wright, State's Attorney, of Springfield (Patrick Delfino, David J. Robinson, and Thomas R. Dodegge, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

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

          OPINION

          STEIGMANN, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 In November 2015, the State charged defendant, Vincent P. Schnoor, with aggravated robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-1(b)(1) (West 2014)), financial institution robbery (720 ILCS 5/17-10.6(f) (West 2014)), and misappropriation of financial institution property (720 ILCS 5/17- 10.6(a) (West 2014)).

         ¶ 2 In March 2016, defense counsel moved "for a fitness exam to determine whether a bona fide doubt exists with respect to" defendant's fitness to stand trial. The trial court appointed a psychiatrist who later submitted a report in which he concluded that defendant was fit to stand trial. In April 2016, the parties stipulated to the findings and conclusions in that report.

         ¶ 3 In February 2017, the trial court conducted a plea conference pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 402(d) (eff. July 1, 2012) at which the State indicated it would agree to 15 years in prison in exchange for defendant's guilty plea. The court stated that the State's offer was reasonable and appropriate. However, defendant rejected the State's offer.

         ¶ 4 In May 2017, a jury trial was held at which the State introduced evidence of other crimes-namely, (1) a witness testified that he found contraband unconnected to these charges in defendant's vehicle and (2) the State presented a recorded interview of defendant in which he admitted that he robbed automated teller machines (ATMs). The jury found defendant guilty.

         ¶ 5 In July 2017, at a hearing on defendant's motion for a new trial, defendant pro se presented written complaints about problems he perceived in the trial proceedings. The trial court did not inquire into defendant's complaints at that time. The court later denied the posttrial motion and sentenced defendant to 25 years in prison.

         ¶ 6 Defendant appeals, arguing that (1) he was denied due process when the trial court failed to conduct an independent fitness inquiry and instead relied on the parties' stipulation, (2) defense counsel was ineffective for failing to object to other-crimes evidence, (3) the trial court erred when it failed to conduct an inquiry pursuant to People v. Krankel, 102 Ill.2d 181, 464 N.E.2d 1045 (1984), regarding defendant's written complaints, (4) the trial court violated defendant's right to due process by imposing a longer sentence because defendant exercised his right to a trial, and (5) defendant's sentence was harsh and excessive. We disagree and affirm.

         ¶ 7 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 8 A. The Charges

         ¶ 9 In November 2015, the State charged defendant with aggravated robbery (720 ILCS 5/18-1(b)(1) (West 2014)), financial institution robbery (720 ILCS 5/17-10.6(f) (West 2014)), and misappropriation of financial institution property (720 ILCS 5/17-10.6(a) (West 2014)). At arraignment, the trial court admonished defendant that, due to his criminal record, both robbery charges would be deemed Class X felonies if he were convicted.

         ¶ 10 B. The Fitness Proceedings

         ¶ 11 In March 2016, defense counsel moved "for a fitness exam to determine whether a bona fide doubt exists with respect to" defendant's fitness to stand trial. The trial court appointed a psychiatrist, Dr. Terry Killian, to examine defendant and prepare a report regarding defendant's fitness to stand trial. Killian later submitted a report in which he concluded that defendant was fit to stand trial. In April 2016, the parties stipulated to the findings and conclusions in that report. The trial court accepted the stipulation and set the case for trial. The record contains no further discussion about defendant's fitness.

         ¶ 12 C. The Rule 402 Conference

         ¶ 13 In February 2017, the trial court conducted a plea conference pursuant to Illinois Supreme Court Rule 402 (eff. July 1, 2012) at the parties' request. During the conference, the State advised the court that a guilty verdict would result in a mandatory Class X sentence due to defendant's criminal record. The State informed the court that because defendant used a fake handgun and confessed to robbing the bank, the State was willing to accept a negotiated plea for 15 years in prison. (The prosecutor did not specify to which charge the proposed plea agreement would apply.) The State further stated that it would recommend 15 to 18 years in prison if defendant entered an "open plea."

         ¶ 14 Defense counsel stated that defendant was willing to plead guilty in exchange for 10 years in prison and asked the court if it would sentence defendant in excess of 15 years if he entered into an open plea. The court stated that the State's offer of 15 years was reasonable and appropriate and also stated that a sentence imposed pursuant to an open plea might be above or below the State's recommendation, depending on the evidence presented at sentencing.

         ¶ 15 Defendant rejected the State's plea offer and declined to enter a guilty plea. In May 2017, defendant rejected the State's amended plea offer for 14 years in prison. Prior to trial, the State dismissed the misappropriation of financial institution property charge.

         ¶ 16 D. The Jury Trial

         ¶ 17 Defendant's jury trial was conducted in May 2017. During the State's case-in-chief, numerous witnesses testified. Their testimony indicated that in November 2015, defendant robbed Marine Bank in Springfield, Illinois. He covered his face with a mask and used a fake firearm. After the robbery, defendant got into a car crash with another person, who called the police.

         ¶ 18 The police ultimately tracked defendant down and brought him in for questioning, during which he made numerous incriminating statements. After defendant was arrested, he contacted his coworker, Larry Bass, to get money from defendant's hotel room. While in that room, Bass and defendant's employer, Robert Ewa, found a large sum of currency. Ewa picked up some of that currency and later turned it over to the police. The currency was traceable to Marine Bank by serial number. The police found and searched defendant's vehicle and recovered numerous incriminating items from it, including a BB gun.

         ¶ 19 Kevin Echols testified that, in November 2015, he discovered that a laptop computer, radios, a jacket, and other personal items were missing from his vehicle. Later in November 2015, Echols was shown photographs that depicted the person robbing the bank, and Echols recognized the jacket the robber was wearing in those photographs as the one missing from his vehicle. Echols testified that the jacket was from American Family Insurance and had been given to him by his girlfriend, who worked for American Family Insurance. Echols was shown a photograph from a County Market grocery store surveillance video. The photograph shows a man with his face uncovered and wearing a jacket. Echols identified the jacket as his and as the same one that was missing from his vehicle and that was in the photograph of the bank robber. Other witnesses identified the man in the County Market surveillance video as defendant.

         ¶ 20 Detective Timothy Zajicek of the Springfield Police Department testified that he interrogated defendant, and a recording of that interrogation was played for the jury. Approximately 20 minutes into the video, defense counsel objected to a statement in which defendant admitted to robbing ATMs. The State responded that it had made all the redactions requested by defense counsel. Defense counsel withdrew her objection, stating that they agreed that mention of the ATM burglaries would be redacted from the video, and she accepted the State's assurances that the video complied with their agreement. However, defense counsel did not renew her objection when the ATM crimes were repeatedly mentioned in the rest of the recorded interrogation viewed by the jury.

         ¶ 21 Defendant testified at trial and admitted that he robbed the Marine Bank. However, defendant explained he thought his employer, Ewa, was going to kill defendant unless he robbed the bank to give Ewa money. Defendant also testified that he mistakenly believed his coworker, Larry Bass, was a federal law enforcement officer and that Bass told defendant to rob the bank as part of a federal sting operation targeting Ewa.

         ¶ 22 On cross-examination, defendant acknowledged that he did not mention his belief he was a part of a sting operation when he initially was interrogated by the police. Instead, he wrote a statement for the police during the interrogation in which he said that he thought he had two choices: (1) either kill Ewa or (2) cause an investigation of Ewa by going to his bank and causing a "suicide by another person incident." He also acknowledged that he initially told the police he was not involved in the bank robbery.

         ¶ 23 In closing argument, defense counsel acknowledged the overwhelming evidence against defendant but asserted that defendant had proved the affirmative defenses of compulsion and mistake of fact.

         ¶ 24 The jury found defendant guilty of aggravated robbery and financial institution robbery.

         ¶ 25 E. The Allegations of Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         ¶ 26 In June 2017, defense counsel filed a motion for a new trial. In July 2017, the trial court conducted a hearing on that motion at which defense counsel told the court that defendant felt that counsel had not addressed in the posttrial motion all the issues defendant wanted addressed. Defense counsel also informed the court that prior to the hearing, defendant gave counsel a document on which defendant had written the additional issues defendant wanted addressed, and counsel attached that document to her posttrial motion as "Defendant's Addendum." That document reads as follows:

"1. The usage of other crimes evidence involving the idea created a prejudicial effect that outwit [sic] it's [sic] probative value when combined with Agent Echols testimony.
2. The state failed to establish chain of custody for def s handwritten statement for the time period of 9:14:31pm to
3. The usage of other crimes evidence involving atm's."

         ¶ 27 Defense counsel asked the trial court to amend her motion by incorporating therein the arguments in "Defendant's Addendum." The court granted her request and then denied the motion.

         ¶ 28 F. Sentencing

         ¶ 29 Immediately following the hearing on the motion for a new trial, the trial court conducted the sentencing hearing at which neither party offered any evidence. The State recommended 25 years in prison and argued in support thereof that (1) defendant's conduct threatened serious harm, (2) defendant has a history of criminal activity, (3) the sentence should be designed to deter others, and (4) the trial court should give defendant a greater sentence "because a lenient sentence in this case could send a message that one could commit a notorious, serious crime, get to take the stand, manufacture a completely outrageous story and receive a lenient sentence, and that's not the correct message that this court should send ***." The State also argued ...


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