People v. Potts

Citation2021 IL App (1st) 161219,196 N.E.3d 961
Docket Number1-16-1219
Decision Date28 April 2021
Parties The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Reginald POTTS, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois

2021 IL App (1st) 161219
196 N.E.3d 961

The PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Reginald POTTS, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 1-16-1219

Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, THIRD DIVISION.

Filed April 28, 2021

Jennifer L. Blagg, of Chicago, for appellant.

Kimberly M. Foxx, State's Attorney, of Chicago (Alan J. Spellberg and Douglas P. Harvath, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), for the People.

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

196 N.E.3d 969

¶ 1 A jury convicted defendant, Reginald Potts, of the first degree murder of Nailah Franklin. Defendant alleges a vast array of errors, including the failure to suppress evidence, defective jury instructions, ineffective assistance of counsel, rampant prosecutorial misconduct, and the trial court's refusal to allow a witness who emerged after trial to testify on defendant's behalf without revealing his identity to the public. We affirm.


¶ 3 I

¶ 4 Nailah Franklin was last seen alive on September 18, 2007, in the company of defendant. Nailah, then 28 years old, worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative for Eli Lilly and part time in an art gallery. By all accounts, Nailah was popular, vivacious, and attractive, with a busy social calendar. She met defendant in May 2006. A self-described real-estate investor, defendant presented as a wealthy man with a lavish lifestyle—a penthouse in the south loop, a Bentley and other fancy cars, and money to frequent upscale restaurants and trendy clubs. Defendant and Nailah saw each other regularly, but not exclusively, until July 2007, when Nailah broke it off. She recently met Andre Wright at the art gallery. Although Andre lived in Milwaukee, their relationship grew "serious" quickly. Unlike defendant, whose arrogance had worn thin with Nailah, Andre treated her with respect. But Nailah remained in touch with defendant for a time, as revelations about his past—and present—began to surface.

¶ 5 On July 16, 2007, Nailah sent defendant an e-mail titled, "Adios." As she explained, she had tried several times to "remove [defendant] from [her] life," but somehow he always managed to "slip back in there." The time had come to finally "put an end to any and all communications." Nailah was "very disappointed" that defendant treated their relationship as just one more of his "games" and sexual exploits. He was deeply disrespectful. He constantly flirted with her friends. He obsessed, to the point of being "pathological," over seemingly insignificant things. He cared only for himself and only about the money he was "so focused on making."

¶ 6 Worse yet, she wrote, "[s]ince the first day we met, you and your life has been nothing but lies." There was defendant's " ‘omission’ of jail time and illegal history." His "[c]onstant lies and stories" about where he was and what he was doing. The fact that he "probably" had another girlfriend the whole time. And most disturbing of all, his refusal to acknowledge the existence of his own children. As it turned out, defendant had (at least) three daughters, two with his soon-to-be ex-wife, Nathaly Figueroa, and one, an infant, with Ina Dorsey.

¶ 7 Nailah did not want to hear from defendant again. If her "impulsive side" ever led her to call, she said, "do not answer. It doesn't mean anything." It was just "a slip of the brain."

¶ 8 Two of Nailah's friends—her best friend, Dana McClellan, and her coworker Tiffani Miley—confirmed that Nailah was angry and felt disrespected by what she was learning about defendant. But her communications with defendant did not

196 N.E.3d 970

end just yet. Neither did her interest in learning the truth about him. In the weeks to come, Nailah learned that he had been seeing Joy Hawkins—and flirting with Tiffani, who rebuffed his advances—over the summer. And she reached out to Ina. At home with defendant's infant child, and in the midst of searching for a house for the three of them, Ina was surprised to learn that her relationship with defendant was not exclusive. Nailah and Ina would continue to speak at length and share information about defendant, until Nailah disappeared.

¶ 9 On September 6, 2007, someone (it was not clear who) e-mailed Nailah an article about defendant from the Chicago Sun-Times. Nailah forwarded the article to Dana and Tiffani, and blind-copied defendant. That message has come to be known as the "FBI" e-mail. Nailah wrote, "Girl, this s*** is hilarious. Old girl just sent this to me." The text of the article followed. It said that defendant had once been arrested on "drugs and weapons charges out of Chicago" and for threatening a Highland Park police officer who was investigating him for stealing cars. While he was left alone for just a moment at the Dirksen Federal Building, "the skinny Potts" slipped out of his handcuffs and escaped. While on the lam, he called the FBI to boast that they would never catch him. Agents found him hiding under a bush two weeks later and arrested him.

¶ 10 The "FBI" e-mail set off a barrage of heated communications over the next few days. The first was a long voicemail that defendant left Nailah. He repeatedly bragged that he was "very, very wealthy" and will always be surrounded by women and finery. He accused Nailah of being "hung up" on him, "desperational," and angry that he "won't f*** with [her] anymore." He called Nailah "bitter" and "venomous," said that she did not deserve the things that he has, and told her to forget about him.

¶ 11 Defendant also responded in an e-mail. He copied Tiffani (among others), ignoring her repeated requests not to be dragged into whatever "drama" was brewing with Nailah. The subject line read, in part, "B***, I'm rich! So that s*** doesn't even matter." Defendant commented on how "sad" it was that Nailah was "so caught up" in him and so "MADD [sic ]" that he would not take her calls or come over and "f***" her anymore. But "aw don't be upset," he said, "you give okay head and your a*** is kinda tight so you should be able to find a decent man in no time. Just do yourself a favor and get a lift for those saggy a*** breast[s]." He warned, stop "testing me" or "trying to figure out my moves or who I'm f***." And he claimed that the article did not embarrass him; it just made Nailah look "bitter and desperate." But if she kept "talking s*** and sending articles," he would respond by "passing around copy's [sic ] of the tape that show my d*** in your mouth."

¶ 12 "A bit dramatic," Nailah wrote back, adding that defendant was "[c]learly *** crazy." She wondered how defendant got her friends’ e-mail addresses and asked him not to contact Dana or Tiffani—or her—ever again. They had enough of his "obsessive calling and behavior."

¶ 13 Defendant left Nailah another voicemail. It appears the message was eventually deleted, but Nailah played it for Dana and Tiffani. As Dana recalled, defendant said, "I could erase you, and I should have somebody come over there and get you now." According to Tiffani, he said, in an "angry and very serious" tone, "if you do anything else, if I hear anything else, I will erase your a***. You will disappear." Nailah said she wanted Tiffani to hear the

196 N.E.3d 971

message "just in case anything happened to her."

¶ 14 Defendant called Nailah again, and she put Dana on hold to take his call. When she got back on the line with Dana, she was scared. She gave Dana the access information for her e-mail and voicemail, "in case anything happened to her." Over the next few days, Nailah and Dana would text and talk frequently about defendant, as Nailah became increasingly frightened.

¶ 15 Meanwhile, Ina confronted defendant about what she was learning from Nailah. He grew angry and insisted that Nailah was lying. He also became violent with Ina. (We will discuss this violence in more detail infra ¶¶ 61-74.)

¶ 16 Nailah e-mailed defendant to say that she filed a police report and would seek an order of protection. She told him, "If you come anywhere near me you will be back in jail, I promise. You are crazy, you hit women, you are a bully, you are extremely dangerous, but you are not going to bully me."

¶ 17 Communications between Nailah and defendant petered out around September 11. Nailah spent a few days with Andre in Wisconsin. When she came back, she told Tiffani that she was afraid of defendant and wanted to get a restraining order against him. And she e-mailed Ina, who was seeking a similar order, suggesting that they share information. That same day, she told her friend Devin Carter that defendant threatened to kill her. Nailah said, ominously, "[i]f something happened to her, that he did it."

¶ 18 II

¶ 19 That was September 17, 2007. By the latter part of September 18, Nailah was missing.

¶ 20 Nailah traded e-mails with Andre throughout the morning, and she called in to work, not long before noon, to take a personal day. But after that, calls, e-mails, and texts to Nailah started to go unanswered. Neither Andre nor her supervisor at Eli Lilly could get a hold of her, which was unusual; Nailah and Andre spoke constantly, and Nailah was always dependable at work.

¶ 21 Between roughly 4 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., suspicious messages starting coming from...

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1 cases
  • People v. Harris
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • August 1, 2023
    ...use the credibility of the state's attorney's office to bolster a witness's testimony." People v. Potts, 2021 IL App (1st) 161219, ¶ 280, 196 N.E.3d 961. If the State made such an improper comment, then reversal is required if that comment caused" 'substantial prejudice,' such that a review......

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