Articles Tagged with felony theft in chicago

An unidentified person allegedly stole jewelry from inside a home during a Skokie estate sale last week. The case is interesting because it raises a number of different issues that the prosecution will need to overcome if an arrest is made and charges filed, as well as many possible defense strategies to explore.

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At the outset, the prosecution faces an uphill battle in obtaining a positive identification of the alleged thief. In reference to the estate sale, individuals were no doubt going in and out of the home. Any forensic evidence found at the scene – such as fingerprints, clothing fibers, or other DNA evidence – cannot provide a smoking gun. Here, the suspect was “invited” into the home for purposes of the sale. Absent any forensic evidence tying the suspect to the scene, an eyewitness identification is strongly in doubt. With the family talking to dozens of people while trying to make sales, without any distinguishing characteristics on the suspect’s part, it will be difficult for eyewitnesses to testify with certainty that the suspect was present in the home.

Even if caught – for example, if a local pawn shop reports purchasing the stolen jewelry – it is difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect was the person who stole the jewelry. Without a positive identification or any forensic evidence tying him to the scene, there are any number of possible reasons the suspect could have come into possession of the jewelry. He could have purchased it from a different pawn shop, received it as a gift, or even found it discarded in a trash can or on the side of the road.

Skokie Defense of Theft

From the defense side, there are several issues to explore regarding the estate sale itself that could help cast doubt on the suspect’s guilt:

  • Was there a “free” table at the sale? If there was, it raises the possibility that another attendee, or even a family member, mistakenly laid the jewelry on that table, leading the suspect to believe it was free for the taking;
  • How many people were in charge of handling transactions? If there was more than one person handling sales, it is possible that the suspect actually paid for the item. Lack of communication between salespeople could cause the sale to not be properly recorded, thus leading to a misunderstanding that the item was stolen;
  • Do any of the people running the estate sale carry a criminal history of theft or similar crimes themselves? It is possible one of the salespeople simply pocketed the money from the sale and reported it as stolen to cover his tracks;
  • Is there animosity among the family members set to inherit the estate? Proceeds from the estate sale are deposited into the estate and used to pay estate bills before they are ultimately distributed to the heirs. If there was a disagreement amongst family members as to who should receive the allegedly stolen piece of jewelry, a decision of the majority of the heirs would win. A disgruntled family member who wanted the jewelry may have pocketed it and concocted the theft story to deflect blame.

Each of these scenarios would cast serious doubt on the defendant’s guilt, and are all avenues that David L. Freidberg would explore in working to get the charges dropped or the case dismissed.  Continue reading

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A former Chicago police chief is set to stand trial in late September on charges of felony theft of government property, misallocation of funds and official misconduct. The police chief, who pled not guilty to the charges in February 2013, is accused of stealing more than $140,000 from the city’s drug asset forfeiture fund.

Chicago Felony Theft Charge

Felony theft of Illinois government property occurs when the defendant obtains or exerts control over property in the custody of any law enforcement agency. Felony theft of government property is a serious crime that imposes harsher penalties than other theft categories – in this case, a Class X felony due to the amount of money allegedly stolen and the fact that it was stolen from a government agency. A Class X felony carries the potential for a minimum of six years in prison, with a maximum of 30 years.

The defense attorney recently filed a motion requesting that the prosecution provide more details on the intent element and on the transactions themselves. This is an important motion, as it deals with an essential element of the crime, and whether the defendant should have been charged with a lower class of felony.

Intent to Deprive

Felony theft is a specific intent crime, which means that in order to prove guilt, the prosecution must be able not only to prove that the defendant took the money knowing he was not entitled to it, but that he also intended to permanently deprive the rightful owner of the use of the property, or used it in such a manner that would deprive the rightful owner of the use of the property.

How does this work in terms of defense? Let’s assume that the prosecution can prove that the defendant knew he was not entitled to the money when he took it. The prosecutor still must prove that the defendant intended to permanently deprive the city of its right to the money. It may be possible, therefore, to make the argument that at the time the defendant took the money, he intended to repay it; that he simply had fallen on hard times, and was using it as a stopgap measure until he was able to obtain other income.

Class 1 v. Class X Felony Theft

The defense attorney also requested more information on the details of each interaction. In Illinois, theft from a government agency is a Class 1 felony if the value of the property stolen was $500 or less.

Although the total value of the money allegedly stolen by the defendant was $140,000, the law does not specifically state that the total value is cumulative. Meaning, if the amount allegedly stolen was taken in numerous increments of $500 or less, an argument could be made that each separate occurrence should be charged as Class 1, rather than a Class X, felony. This would result in a significant reduction in sentence if the defendant is found guilty – up to three years in prison for a Class 1 felony versus the potential 30-year sentence for a Class X felony.  Continue reading

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