Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 15 CR 3439
Honorable Joan Margaret O'Brien, Judge, presiding.
E. Chadd, Patricia Mysza, Bradley Jarka and Kieran M. Wiberg,
of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Chicago, for
Kimberly M. Foxx, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J.
Spellberg and Matthew Connors, Assistant State's
Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.
JUSTICE HARRIS delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Mikva and Justice Cunningham
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 Following a bench trial, defendant James Thomas was
convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (AUUW) (720
ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A-5); (a)(1), (a)(3)(C) (West
2014)) and sentenced to one year in prison. On appeal,
defendant argues that (1) the trial court erred in denying
his pretrial motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence
of a firearm police found in his vehicle and (2) the State
failed to prove that he constructively possessed the firearm
beyond a reasonable doubt. For the following reasons, we
3 Defendant was sentenced on September 22, 2016. He filed his
notice of appeal on September 22, 2016. Accordingly, this
court has jurisdiction pursuant to Article VI, section 6, of
the Illinois Constitution (Ill. Const. 1970, art. VI, §
6) and Illinois Supreme Court Rule 603 (eff. Oct. 1, 2010)
and Rule 606 (eff. Mar. 20, 2009), governing appeals from a
final judgment of conviction in a criminal case entered
5 Defendant was charged by information with three counts of
AUUW (720 ILCS 5/24- 1.6(a)(1), (a)(3)(A-5); (a)(1),
(a)(3)(C) (West 2014)) based upon his alleged possession of
an uncased, loaded handgun in his vehicle without having been
issued a valid Firearm Owner's Identification (FOID) card
or concealed carry license (CCL).
6 Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to quash his
arrest and suppress evidence of the firearm, arguing that the
police entered his vehicle and seized the weapon without
probable cause. At the suppression hearing, defendant
testified that he picked up his brother, Steve Harris, on
64th Street at approximately 6:30 p.m. on February 17, 2015.
Defendant then drove to their home in the 12000 block of
Sangamon Street. He denied committing any traffic offenses on
the way home.
7 Upon arrival, defendant parked his vehicle on the street,
exited with Harris, and locked the doors. Defendant then
walked around the rear of his vehicle and was near the trunk
when two police officers arrived in a squad car and
"boxed [him] in" by parking directly behind his
vehicle. The officers exited with their weapons drawn, shined
their spotlight on defendant and Harris, and ordered them to
walk toward the squad car. Defendant and Harris complied. One
of the officers then took defendant's keys from his
pocket and approached his vehicle. The other officer
handcuffed defendant and Harris together, put them in the
back of the squad car, and "ran [their] names."
Afterwards, the police recovered a loaded firearm from under
the passenger's seat of defendant's vehicle. On
cross-examination, defendant denied telling the officers that
the firearm belonged to him. However, he acknowledged that
Harris was released shortly after the police recovered the
8 The defense rested, and the State called Chicago police
officer James Bansley. Bansley testified that he and his
partner, Officer Matthew O'Brien, were driving near 122nd
Street when he observed defendant's vehicle turn onto
Sangamon without signaling. They "pursued" the
vehicle in order to conduct a traffic stop, but defendant
pulled over before the officers caught up to his vehicle.
Defendant and Harris then exited their vehicle and began
walking toward one of the houses on Sangamon. The officers
parked behind defendant's vehicle, illuminated defendant
and Harris with their spotlight, and exited the squad car.
O'Brien approached defendant and asked for his
driver's license while Bansley stood near the
passenger's side of defendant's vehicle. As defendant
and Harris were walking back toward the squad car, Bansley
looked through the window of defendant's vehicle and
observed approximately five inches of an object that, through
his experience as a police officer, he
"immediately" recognized as the extended magazine
of a handgun.
9 While defendant's back was turned, Bansley gestured to
O'Brien to alert him about the firearm. Upon receiving
the signal, O'Brien handcuffed defendant and Harris
together while they were between defendant's vehicle and
the officers' squad car. Bansley then opened the door to
defendant's vehicle, which was unlocked, and recovered
the firearm. Bansley next observed O'Brien remove the
handcuffs from Harris and place them solely on defendant.
Afterwards, O'Brien informed Bansley, in defendant's
presence, that defendant "ma[d]e an admission ***
regarding the gun." Defendant was ticketed for failure
to use his turn signal ...