People v. Parsons

Decision Date06 December 1991
Docket NumberNo. 1-90-1038,1-90-1038
Parties, 165 Ill.Dec. 263 The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Ronald PARSONS, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

Altheimer & Gray, Chicago (Mark T. Hechinger and Phillip J. Zisook, of counsel), for defendant-appellant.

Jack O'Malley, State's Atty. of Cook County, Chicago (Renee Goldfarb, Veronica X. Calderon, Ketki M. Shroff, Ass't. State's Attys., of counsel), for plaintiff-appellee.

Presiding Justice RAKOWSKI delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant-appellant Ronald Parsons was charged by information with possession of more than 15 grams of a controlled substance, namely cocaine, with intent to deliver. A jury found defendant guilty of the charge, and defendant was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 12 years, three years mandatory supervised release and a fine of $40,000. Defendant appeals this judgment requesting that his conviction be reversed outright, remanded for a new trial or remanded for an evidentiary hearing.

Chicago Police officers Frank Goff, Victor Guerrieri and Gerry Hutch testified at trial. They related that on August 4, 1987, they were at the home of Ronald Nemerow, along with Detective Abreu. The reason for their presence was to execute a search warrant for marijuana. During execution of the warrant, Nemerow asked how he could become an informant. Nemerow was told that he would have to give the officers two arrests to prove himself reliable, and the amount he would be paid would depend on the amount of drugs eventually seized. Nemerow asked the officers "How about if I could get you four ounces?" Officer Goff told Nemerow that this would be a good start.

Nemerow proceeded to make a phone call. Goff testified that Nemerow said "Hi, its me. Yeah. You got that information we talked about. Yeah. Where? What time? Okay." Nemerow then hung up the phone and told the officers to go to the Edens Plaza shopping center, and that there defendant would have four ounces of cocaine. Both Nemerow and his van were searched. In the van, the officers found a number of electric ceiling Casablanca fans and track lighting fixtures. The officers and Nemerow then proceeded to the shopping plaza.

Once there, Nemerow parked his van near the entrance to a store. One of the police officers stayed in the van while officers Goff and Abreu stationed themselves in the entrance way to the store. Defendant drove his car, a white Volvo station wagon, into the parking lot, circled the area and parked across from the van. Defendant's car was about 100 feet from the van and faced in the opposite direction. Goff and Abreu, who were in undercover garb, were about 100 feet from defendant's vehicle.

Nemerow then exited his van and walked toward defendant's car. At this time, Goff and Abreu began to approach the vehicle as well. Goff testified that when he got to a point of about 15 feet from the vehicle, he saw defendant peer over his shoulder and peel the horn section of his car off. Defendant then removed a clear plastic bag containing white powder from the steering column. According to Goff, when defendant saw the officers, he tried to put the bag back into the steering column. The officers were on the driver's side of defendant's vehicle.

All of the officers testified that Nemerow never entered defendant's car. The distance from the car Nemerow got, however, varied from the officers' accounts, from being alongside the car to 15 feet away. The officers testified that as defendant saw them, he tried to drive away, but that his car was blocked by another officer in a police vehicle. Goff testified that Abreu entered defendant's car and recovered a bag of cocaine from the horn section. Goff testified at trial that he took a second bag from the horn section, although at a hearing on a motion to suppress Goff had testified that he wasn't sure whether it was Abreu or Goff himself who recovered the second bag. Officer Guerrieri testified that Goff removed both bags, while officer Hutch testified that he saw Goff remove one bag. It was stipulated that 218.53 grams of cocaine were recovered from defendant's car.

Defendant testified in his own behalf. He stated he did not even know what four ounces of cocaine looked like. He was 49 years old at the time of trial and had no prior convictions. He was in the real estate business and had a net worth of over two million dollars, primarily through real estate investments in condominiums and shopping centers.

Defendant knew Nemerow through a lease agreement regarding a condominium unit located in Vernon Hills, Illinois. The named lessee was Nemerow's girl friend, although Nemerow paid the rent. Defendant collected his own rents and saw Nemerow once a month for this purpose. Also Nemerow sold various goods after buying out store inventories. Defendant had purchased carpeting and sweatshirts from Nemerow.

In July of 1987, defendant was remodeling his basement, and arranged to purchase track lighting and four Casablanca ceiling fans from Nemerow. On August 4, 1987, Nemerow called defendant. Defendant asked if Nemerow had the lights and fans, and Nemerow, according to defendant, said "Yeah." They decided to meet at the Edens Plaza and not at the condominium because Nemerow said he wanted to remain near his address.

Defendant further testified that he drove his car in the parking lot and parked it next to Nemerow's van. Nemerow then debarked from the van and entered defendant's car. Within seconds, two men approached the car. Defendant said that Nemerow put a plastic bag on the floor, and then said "Get the hell out of here." Defendant drove a few car lengths but was cut off by a car. Defendant then got out of his car, and the police pulled Nemerow from the passenger seat. Defendant said that both he and Nemerow were then searched. According to defendant, officer Abreu went in the car, held up the bag Nemerow had dropped and said "We got the cane." Goff never entered the car. Defendant denied ever removing the horn assembly and placing any cocaine in his car.

During the hearing on post-trial motions, defendant was allowed to make a statement on his own behalf. During this statement, which included arguments in mitigation and numerous other matters, defendant made the following comments:

"Sam [defense counsel] is overworked. I think Sam when he gets out on the floor here, you can't get any better. But if you take a juggler and give him four balls and then five balls, and then eight balls and then ten balls, sooner or later there is going to be mistakes made * * * Sam's got a system that he's got like tunnel vision. He only works at one case at a time. For two and a half years I'm on the outside and Sam doesn't talk to you and its frustrating.

* * * * * *

Over the two and a half years, twice I set up a deposition meeting with Ron Nemerow to come down to Sam's office. One time it took about two months to set up this meeting because Sam is too busy * * * * And its hard to set up appointments with Sam, you know, you've been here; how many times have I shown up for court and Sam is in Springfield. Sam is some place else.

* * * * * *

But twice I set up depositions so we could get Nemerow down there [at defense counsel's office] * * * I talked him into coming down to Sam's office. The first time I sat in Sam's office with Ron Nemerow for three and a half hours; Sam never showed up. The second time I'm walking in through the vestibule and Sam says 'I can't do it right now; call me tomorrow.' Well there goes the deposition right down the toilet.

On Monday morning when our trial started, Sam looks over at me and he says 'Who is Helen Velante[,]' one of the witnesses * * * he doesn't know who my witnesses are * * * * And it wasn't Helen Velante, it was her son * * * * we don't have a witness [.]

* * * * * *

Sam didn't even know until after the thing was done that I had a land contract selling my condominium to Ron Nemerow.

* * * * * *

Sam didn't even know my business. He introduced me as a real estate agent. I never have been a real estate agent."

When defendant observed during the statement that his counsel was not present when the jury returned with its verdict, defendant observed, however: "There is nothing wrong with Sam. He's a good, good attorney * * * * " During defendant's statement, he referred to a "three-page confession or summary" that Nemerow had given him. This document described, according to defendant "how the day went," and defendant further related that Nemerow had apologized to him. Also at the hearing, defendant's wife stated: "Ron Nemerow has called me a couple of times, and the last point was the date that the jury came in with a guilty verdict. He called from Joliet stating that he was very sorry for the drugs that he dropped in Ron's car * * * * He's called me twice on that." The three page document defendant referred to, the record reveals, was in defense counsel's possession prior to trial. While it was shown to the state, it was never introduced into evidence and is not part of the record on appeal.

The first issue we address is whether the trial court erred in failing to hold a hearing or conduct further inquiry based on defendant's statements at the hearing on post-trial motions.

Defendant contends that based on the facts of this case, "the trial judge was under a duty to make inquiry of defense counsel concerning the post-trial allegations" raised by defendant and his wife. According to defendant, "a real issue of neglect by defense counsel was raised." A number of factual contentions of defendant are not borne out by the record. It is clear that defendant claimed the defense of entrapment not in his answer to discovery filed on the day of trial, but had raised the defense in his previous answer to discovery. Also, defense counsel never actually said during opening statement, as defendant contends,...

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