People v. Baker

Decision Date20 August 2021
Docket NumberAppeal No. 3-19-0618
Citation2021 IL App (3d) 190618,191 N.E.3d 583,455 Ill.Dec. 276
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Daniel J. BAKER, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

James E. Chadd, Thomas A. Karalis, Mark Fisher, and Adam Bukani, of State Appellate Defender's Office, of Ottawa, for appellant.

Jeremy Karlin, State's Attorney, of Galesburg (Patrick Delfino, Thomas D. Arado, and Nicholas A. Atwood, of State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor's Office, of counsel), for the People.

JUSTICE LYTTON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 Defendant, Daniel J. Baker, was charged with eight counts of unlawful possession of child pornography, alleging that he possessed lewd digital images of girls who he knew or reasonably should have known to be under the age of thirteen. 720 ILCS 5/11-20.1(a)(6), (c-5) (West 2018). Prior to trial, defendant filed a motion to suppress images police officers obtained from a micro-SD card belonging to him. Following a hearing, the trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress. The State moved to dismiss all but one of the counts of unlawful possession of child pornography, and the case proceeded to a stipulated bench trial. The trial court found defendant guilty and sentenced him to 30 months of probation. Defendant appeals, arguing that (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress and (2) the State failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We affirm.

¶ 2 BACKGROUND

¶ 3 On June 1, 2018, defendant was charged with eight counts of unlawful possession of child pornography. Each count alleged that defendant "possessed a digital image of a child whom the defendant knew or reasonably should have known to be under the age of thirteen (13), which depicted or portrayed in any pose, posture, or setting a lewd exhibition of the unclothed genitals, pubic area, buttocks or fully or partially developed breasts of a minor female child." The images were found on a micro-SD card belonging to defendant.

¶ 4 Defendant filed a motion to suppress the images contained on the micro-SD card, alleging that the card was seized in an illegal, warrantless search. The trial court held a hearing on defendant's motion to suppress.

¶ 5 At the hearing, Magdalene Semington, a patrol officer for the City of Galesburg, testified that she met with Jesse Pickrel on the morning of June 1, 2018, at the police station. Pickrel told Semington that he was at the home of his friend, Elizabeth Baker, and she showed him a micro-SD card that belonged to her husband, defendant, which contained child pornography. According to Pickrel, defendant had problems in the past "looking at pictures of naked juveniles." Approximately 30 minutes after learning about the micro-SD card and its contents, Semington, along with Detective Todd Olinger, went to Elizabeth and defendant's apartment.

¶ 6 When Semington and Olinger arrived at the apartment, Elizabeth opened the door and whispered that defendant was home. When Semington asked about the micro-SD card, Elizabeth said defendant had been aggressive with her in the past and she feared he would harm her. As a result, Semington and Olinger devised a plan to remove defendant from the apartment by saying they received a call about a domestic complaint.

¶ 7 Olinger asked defendant to step outside with him. Once defendant was outside, Elizabeth retrieved the micro-SD card from a high shelf by standing on a chair and gave it to Semington. Elizabeth did not want defendant to know that she gave Semington the micro-SD card or that she was cooperating with the police because she feared defendant would hurt her.

¶ 8 Semington denied threatening Elizabeth. Semington admitted telling Elizabeth she could be "arrested for obstructing" but only said that so defendant would not know Elizabeth was cooperating with her. Elizabeth never indicated that she was unwilling to cooperate or give the micro-SD card to Semington. Semington admitted she never asked defendant for the micro-SD card even though she knew it was his.

¶ 9 Elizabeth testified that she has been married to defendant since 2013. She and defendant have two children together. When police officers came to her apartment on June 1, 2018, asking about a micro-SD card, she knew what the officers were referring to because she found the card a few days earlier. The card belonged to defendant. Elizabeth told the officers she was "a little nervous" about retrieving the card because defendant was home. She also said she was not sure she wanted to give the officers the card because she did not want defendant to be arrested. According to Elizabeth, the officers told her that if she did not give them the micro-SD card, they could obtain a search warrant and arrest her for refusing to cooperate. When Elizabeth asked what would happen to her children if she were arrested, the officers said they could be taken away and placed in foster care. Elizabeth was scared because of what the officers said and decided to retrieve the card and give it to the officers.

¶ 10 While the officers talked to defendant outside, Elizabeth went inside the apartment and retrieved the micro-SD card. When Elizabeth came back outside, the officers told defendant to go inside, and Elizabeth gave them the card.

¶ 11 Elizabeth testified that she is still married to defendant. When defendant found out how the police obtained the micro-SD card, he was upset with Elizabeth but forgave her. Elizabeth said that when she found the card, "I couldn't go to the police myself because it was my husband. *** So one of my friends did it for me."

¶ 12 Olinger, who was a detective with the City of Galesburg on June 1, 2018, testified that he went with Semington to Elizabeth and defendant's apartment on June 1, 2018. After the officers knocked, Elizabeth opened the door, and the officers asked her to step outside. The officers then asked Elizabeth to bring them the micro-SD card she had found and shown to Pickrel.

¶ 13 According to Olinger, Elizabeth was "cooperative" and "friendly" but said she did not want to retrieve the card in front of defendant because she was scared of him. Olinger asked defendant to step out of the apartment. When he did so, Olinger talked to defendant about an alleged domestic dispute. Defendant admitted that he and Elizabeth had a "dispute" earlier that day. Olinger never told defendant that he and Semington were there for his micro-SD card. Olinger denied that he or Semington told Elizabeth that her kids could be taken away or that she could be criminally charged if she did not cooperate with them.

¶ 14 The trial court denied defendant's motion to suppress, finding the testimony of Semington and Olinger more credible than Elizabeth's testimony. The court further ruled that Elizabeth had authority to give consent to the officers to search anything in the apartment because she lived there.

¶ 15 On June 17, 2019, the parties informed the court that they had reached an agreement requiring the State to dismiss seven of the eight counts of unlawful possession of child pornography against defendant in exchange for a stipulated bench trial on the one remaining count. At the stipulated bench trial, the prosecutor stated that the evidence would show that on June 1, 2018, Pickrel told officers that he saw Elizabeth put a micro-SD card into a tablet and saw images of young nude females. Pickrel reported what he saw to police. As a result of that report, officers went to defendant's residence, and Elizabeth gave the officers the micro-SD card. Officers observed eight sexually explicit images of nude females under the age of 13 on the card. Officers obtained a search warrant and arrested defendant. When officers interviewed defendant, he said there were 40 pornographic images of children on the card. Officers executed a search warrant and found 400 images on the micro-SD card.

¶ 16 The State provided a copy of one image contained on the micro-SD card to the trial court. The image shows a completely nude young girl sitting on the floor of a carpeted room. One of her legs is on the ground fully bent and the foot of that leg is tucked under the thigh of her other leg, which is also on the floor and bent at a 90-degree angle. The child's bare vagina is visible. The girl is staring straight ahead with her eyes open. She has long hair, which partially covers her chest, but both of her nipples are uncovered. The girl's breasts are undeveloped, she has no pubic hair, and she lacks muscle tone. On the floor to the left of the girl is a stuffed animal and on a table behind her are a children's book and a small animal statue. In the bottom left-hand corner of the image is the word "naughty." The trial judge stated he looked at the image for "one-half of a second" and "figure[d] out" that the image was "child pornography." He described the photo as "a prepubescent female child completely naked."

¶ 17 The trial court found defendant guilty and sentenced him to 30 months’ probation. Defendant filed a motion for a new trial, which the trial court denied.

¶ 18 ANALYSIS
¶ 19 I. Motion to Suppress

¶ 20 Defendant first contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence. He argues that the trial court should have suppressed all evidence obtained from the micro-SD card because police obtained it in violation of his fourth amendment rights.

¶ 21 A ruling on a motion to suppress is subject to a mixed standard of review. People v. Pitman , 211 Ill. 2d 502, 512, 286 Ill.Dec. 36, 813 N.E.2d 93 (2004). The trial court's factual findings are entitled to deference, given that the trial court is in a superior position to weigh the credibility of witnesses, and we will uphold such findings unless they are contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. Id. However, the ultimate legal question of suppression is subject to de...

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