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People v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division

November 21, 2019

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ANTHONY JONES, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 15 CR 9509 Honorable James B. Linn, Judge, presiding.

          Attorneys for Appellant: James E. Chadd, State Appellate Defender Patricia Mysza, Deputy Defender Bryon M. Reina, Assistant Appellate Defender Office of the State Appellate Defender

          Attorneys for Appellee: Kimberly M. Foxx, State's Attorney, County of Cook Alan J. Spellberg, Assistant State's Attorney Hareena Meghani-Wakely, Assistant State's Attorney

          JUSTICE REYES delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices McBride and Burke concurred in the judgment and opinion.

          OPINION

          REYES, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Following a bench trial, defendant Anthony Jones was found guilty of eight weapons-related charges, including armed habitual criminal (720 ILCS 5/24-1.7(a) (West 2014)). The court merged all counts into the armed habitual criminal count and sentenced defendant to seven years in prison on that count. On appeal, defendant contends his convictions on all charges should be reversed because the State did not prove that he possessed the firearm recovered by a police officer. He further argues his statement to a second officer that he possessed a firearm was insufficient to establish the corpus delicti of the offenses. In addition, defendant contends his case should be remanded for an inquiry into his counsel's effectiveness pursuant to People v. Krankel, 102 Ill.2d 181 (1984). He also asserts his sentence is excessive in light of the nonviolent circumstances of the offense, his lack of a violent criminal history, and his rehabilitative potential. We affirm.

         ¶ 2 Following a police foot pursuit on May 23, 2015, defendant was charged with being an armed habitual criminal (720 ILCS 5/24-1.7(a) (West 2014)). The State also charged defendant with two counts of unlawful use of a weapon by a felon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.1(a) (West 2014)), four counts of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon (720 ILCS 5/24-1.6(a)(1), (2) (West 2014)), and one count of defacing the identification marks of a firearm (720 ILCS 24-5(b) (West 2014)).

         ¶ 3 At trial, Chicago police officer Garcia testified that at about 11 p.m. on May 23, 2015, he and his partner, Officer Caro, responded to a call of a person with a firearm in the area of Madison Street and Whipple Street.[1] Garcia saw defendant, whom he identified in court, walking on the sidewalk on Whipple Street wearing the clothing that was described in the police dispatch. Between 5 and 15 other people were also nearby.

         ¶ 4 Garcia stopped his vehicle and got out. Defendant continued to walk north on Whipple. Garcia announced his office and shouted "hey" to defendant. Defendant turned, looked at Garcia and ran. Garcia ran after defendant. He estimated he was 15 feet behind defendant and was gaining on defendant as they ran.

         ¶ 5 Garcia followed defendant when defendant turned right and ran east on Madison. He saw defendant's hand "come up towards his waistband area at which time I observed his left hand *** toss a[n] unknown black object that made a metallic noise" when it hit the ground. Garcia could not see what the black object was, but said it made a "[l]ike a clunking noise." Garcia pursued defendant on Madison and then south onto South Sacramento Boulevard.

         ¶ 6 Defendant was detained on Sacramento, where several officers had assembled. Garcia told Officer Catalano that, after pursuing defendant onto Madison, he saw defendant discard an item that made a metallic noise when it hit the ground. Catalano left immediately. As Garcia retraced the path of the foot chase, he saw Catalano standing over a blue steel Taurus semiautomatic pistol on the ground near where Garcia had seen defendant discard the unknown object. Garcia said the firearm was spotted by Catalano within "seconds" of defendant's detention. Catalano recovered and inventoried the firearm.

         ¶ 7 Defendant was advised of his Miranda rights and taken to the 11th District police station, where Garcia and Caro interviewed him. Garcia asked defendant why he ran. Defendant responded he had seen a firearm on the ground and picked it up, and ran because he did not want to get caught with it.

         ¶ 8 On cross-examination, Garcia said that when he initially saw defendant on the sidewalk, he did not see anything in defendant's hands. The other people with defendant scattered, some in the same direction as defendant. During the pursuit, Garcia did not send a radio message to other officers about the object discarded by defendant. It took Garcia between 30 and 45 seconds to walk from where defendant was detained back to Madison. There was a "busy" grocery store "next to" where the firearm was recovered on Madison. Garcia had not seen where the object landed when defendant threw it. Defendant's statement was not memorialized but was documented in the police case report. Garcia did not ask defendant to identify the recovered firearm or "anything about the firearm." On redirect, Garcia said he could not recall if other people were in the area of Madison and Whipple when defendant discarded the object.

         ¶ 9 Catalano testified that when he arrived at Sacramento, Garcia was placing handcuffs on defendant. After speaking with Garcia, Catalano went to the area of Madison and Whipple and, within 30 seconds, recovered a blue steel, 9-millimeter Taurus firearm loaded with eight live rounds. The weapon's serial number had been defaced.

         ¶ 10 On cross-examination, Catalano stated there was a grocery store near where he recovered the firearm. He did not recall if anyone was walking near the store. He recovered the firearm in the street, a foot from the curb. On redirect, he stated no other objects were on the street or sidewalk where the firearm was recovered.

         ¶ 11 The parties stipulated that defendant previously was convicted of possession of methamphetamine in case No. 09 CR 051701 and convicted of the manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance in case No. 06 CR 1231501. They also stipulated that he did not have a concealed carry license or a firearm owner's identification (FOID) card on the day of this offense.

         ¶ 12 For the defense, Tarrina Covington testified he had known defendant for 10 years. On the night of May 23, 2015, Covington picked up defendant and defendant's cousin, Eric Jones, and drove them all to Madison and Whipple. Covington remained in his car while defendant got out and talked to some friends. About 10 or 15 people were nearby. When a police car drove up, defendant and several other people walked north on Whipple toward Madison. Covington did not see defendant hold a firearm or carry a firearm in his waistband or see defendant reach the intersection of Madison and Whipple.

         ¶ 13 Defendant testified he and Jones were talking to a group of people at Madison and Whipple after Covington drove them there. When the police drove up, people threw bottles and cups of alcohol to the ground and started to walk away. Defendant "walked off with the crowd," and when a police officer said "stop right there or something, hey, come here *** everybody scattered off running, everybody went separate ways."

         ¶ 14 Defendant said he ran across Madison and turned left and was eventually detained by police at Albany Avenue. He denied having a firearm, running right on Madison to Sacramento, or throwing any object onto the ground. He also denied telling a police officer that he picked up a weapon from the sidewalk. On cross-examination, defendant said he spoke with Garcia at the police station but told the officer it was not his firearm. Defendant denied telling Garcia he ran to avoid being caught with a weapon.

         ¶ 15 In rebuttal, the State entered a stipulation that defendant had a prior felony conviction for possession of a ...


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