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People v. Braswell

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division

December 26, 2019

JAMAL BRASWELL, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County No. 14 CR 05022 Honorable Ursula Walowski, Judge Presiding.

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

          Attorneys for Appellee: Kimberly M. Foxx, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg, Brian A. Levitsky, and Ahmed Islam, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

          JUSTICE BURKE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Gordon and Justice Reyes concurred in the judgment and opinion.


          BURKE, JUSTICE

         ¶ 1 Following a bench trial, defendant Jamal Braswell was found guilty of armed robbery with a firearm and unlawful restraint, [1] then sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 21 years. On appeal, defendant contends that the court erred in denying his motion to suppress where the Arlington Heights police did not have probable cause to arrest him. He further asserts that the court erred in finding that the State proved he was armed with a firearm at the time of the offense where the witness did not sufficiently describe the firearm and the court instead relied on her subjective belief that defendant had a firearm. Defendant maintains that his conviction should therefore be reduced to simple robbery. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court of Cook County.

         ¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 A. Motion to Suppress

         ¶ 4 Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to quash his arrest and suppress evidence. In his motion, defendant contended that on March 6, 2014, he was approached by two officers who had "prior knowledge that defendant had an investigative alert for his arrest." Defendant asserted that the arrest was made without a warrant and his conduct prior to the arrest did not constitute probable cause for an arrest. Defendant noted that after his unlawful arrest, he was placed in a lineup. Defendant sought to suppress his identification in the lineup. In arguing on defendant's motion, defense counsel explained that two women were arrested in an Arlington Heights Mariano's grocery store on suspicion of passing counterfeit bills. Police also arrested a third person inside the store who police believed was monitoring the two women passing the counterfeit bills. Defense counsel further stated that after speaking to the three people, they learned that they travelled to the store together in a vehicle that was parked in the parking lot. Police discovered two other individuals in the parked vehicle, one of whom was defendant. All five individuals were detained and transferred to the police station. The Arlington Heights police officers later learned that there was an investigative alert from May 2013 for defendant from the Chicago Police Department (CPD). The Arlington Heights police officers informed the CPD that defendant was in custody. The CPD officers picked up defendant and placed him under arrest for an armed robbery that occurred in March 2013. Defense counsel argued that there was no probable cause to arrest defendant in connection with the passing of counterfeit bills and there was also no probable cause for the Arlington Heights officers to hold defendant until the CPD arrived to arrest him.

         ¶ 5 Arlington Heights investigator Eric Sloan testified that when he arrived at work on March 6, 2014, he was informed that patrol units had been dispatched to Mariano's because there was an "ongoing active fraudulent activity investigation." Investigator Sloan explained that in the days leading up to this incident, other police departments in the area were circulating information that there was fraudulent money being passed at Mariano's grocery stores. The day before, the loss prevention team at the Arlington Heights Mariano's informed the Arlington Heights police department that individuals had passed counterfeit money at the grocery store.

         ¶ 6 Investigator Sloan learned that on March 6, 2014, the loss prevention team at the Arlington Heights Mariano's called the Arlington Heights Police Department regarding two individuals attempting to use counterfeit bills. Two Arlington Heights police officers responded to the call and arrested three individuals inside the store, two attempting to pass the counterfeit bills and one monitoring them, and two individuals, including defendant, in a vehicle parked outside. Investigator Sloan testified that the officers who responded to the call "learned there was a vehicle in the parking lot in which [defendant] was located" and the "five subjects in total had come to the location in that vehicle." Investigator Sloan testified that defendant was not in the Mariano's and did not attempt to use any counterfeit bills that day in Mariano's, but he was seated in the vehicle in which the other individuals had driven to the grocery store. At the police station, defendant provided the officers with a fake name, but he had no identification. Accordingly, the officers conducted a fingerprint inquiry, which revealed defendant's identity.

         ¶ 7 The officers then conducted a computerized inquiry, which revealed that there was an investigative alert for defendant for armed robbery in Chicago. Investigator Sloan contacted Chicago Police Detective Steven Buglio who had entered the investigative alert and notified him that defendant was in custody. Sloan continued to investigate defendant and questioned him and the woman who was found in the vehicle with him. The woman told Investigator Sloan that she was defendant's girlfriend and that defendant was the organizer of the counterfeit money scam. Despite this information, at the conclusion of his investigation, Investigator Sloan determined that defendant would not be charged for anything related to the counterfeit money scheme. Investigator Sloan therefore turned defendant over to Detective Buglio, who had arrived at the Arlington Heights police station to retrieve defendant before Investigator Sloan had concluded his investigation.

         ¶ 8 Detective Buglio testified that on March 19, 2013, he was assigned to investigate an armed robbery that occurred at a currency exchange on South Ashland Avenue in Chicago. When he arrived on the scene, he spoke to Rosalva Acosta, who told him about the armed robbery. Acosta described three offenders, one of whom was the person who had the gun. Acosta gave Detective Buglio a physical description of the gunman, and there was a video that showed an image of him. The gunman did not have a mask and was wearing a dark jacket with a white stripe on it. Detective Buglio also reviewed surveillance footage from nearby police observation device cameras. A witness also came forward and provided Detective Buglio with information regarding the license plate for a vehicle that was parked near the currency exchange at the time of the robbery. Detective Buglio learned that the vehicle was a Ford Explorer with a temporary license plate from Wisconsin. Detective Buglio contacted the Wisconsin authorities and informed them of the CPD's interest in the vehicle.

         ¶ 9 Detective Buglio later learned that the vehicle was involved in an unrelated incident in Wisconsin. Detective Buglio and his partners went to Wisconsin to examine the vehicle and take photographs. Detective Buglio noted that the vehicle had some distinctive markings, which they associated with the ABLA Homes[2] area. Detective Buglio observed the vehicle on surveillance footage driving into the ABLA Homes complex in the early morning hours on the day of the robbery. He then observed the occupants of the vehicle enter a nearby CVS. One of the occupants was wearing the same jacket worn by the gunman at the currency exchange robbery.

         ¶ 10 Detective Buglio then went to the CVS and obtained the surveillance footage from the day of the robbery. The footage showed the gunman wearing the jacket. One of Detective Buglio's partners recognized defendant from the neighborhood as the man in the jacket. Detective Buglio generated a photograph array and showed it to Acosta who identified defendant as the gunman. Detective Buglio then generated the investigative alert so that he would be aware if defendant were stopped by the police. Detective Buglio testified that an investigative alert is a notice to the police authorities that "a subj ect is wanted for something." Detective Buglio later learned that defendant's two co-offenders in the armed robbery had been detained and had given handwritten statements about the incident. Both statements implicated defendant in the armed robbery.

         ¶ 11 In March 2014, Detective Buglio was contacted by officers from the Arlington Heights Police Department who informed him that defendant was in their custody on an unrelated matter. After the Arlington Heights police concluded their investigation of defendant, Detective Buglio placed him under arrest. Afterward, defendant was placed in a lineup, and Acosta identified him as the gunman at the robbery. Detective Buglio testified that he conducted a lineup because when Acosta identified defendant in the photo array, she said she needed to observe the offender in person to be sure of his identity.

         ¶ 12 In ruling on defendant's motion, the trial court observed that there was no indication that defendant was in the store passing counterfeit bills but noted that this was part of an ongoing investigation on the part of the Arlington Heights Police Department with regard to the use of counterfeit money in Mariano's grocery stores. The court found the investigation of defendant at the Arlington Heights Police Department "was not any violation of any Fourth Amendment rights or warrant suppression." The court noted that it was an ongoing investigation and the three individuals in the store were in the same vehicle with defendant. With regard to the investigative alert, the court described the process Detective Buglio undertook in order to identify defendant as the gunman and considered the ...

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