In a recent Illinois appellate case, the defendant was convicted of unlawfully delivering heroin. An accountability theory was used to obtain the conviction, which resulted in a 3.5-year sentence of imprisonment in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
The case arose when a 29-year-old woman died due to a heroin overdose in 2014. The defendant’s roommate sold the heroin to the decedent. The defendant was charged with delivering a controlled substance on an accountability theory once it was discovered that the defendant had arranged the sale. The defendant pled not guilty and asked for a speedy trial. The prosecution subsequently charged the defendant with criminal drug conspiracy under 720 ILCS 570/405.1. The defendant said on the record that he would waive his right to trial by jury and also signed a waiver. The prosecution had agreed to dismiss the second count so that the trial occurred only on the first count.
The defendant admitted that his roommate sold the heroin to the decedent. All that was at issue was whether he was accountable for the delivery. Evidence submitted by the prosecutor included screen shots of Facebook conversations and text messages between the different parties, as well as a police interview. Among the Facebook conversations was one between the defendant and the decedent in which the decedent asked whether she could get pills. The defendant responded that he couldn’t get anything, based on two people who had responded to the request.
The defendant admitted the conversation was about heroin. The decedent messaged the defendant again via social media, asking about getting pills. He didn’t respond, but again the decedent contacted him. They had another online conversation about his getting her the drugs. The police searched his cell phone under a search warrant and found several texts between the decedent’s and the defendant’s phones. The decedent repeatedly said that the defendant was her only hope to get the drugs.
The police got a search warrant, searched the defendant’s phone, and found numerous texts related to the purchase. The defendant had texted someone listed in his contacts as “Doober,” asking for a gram of heroin. The defendant sent the decedent a phone number via text, advising her to talk to Jay. Jay’s girlfriend was aware he used heroin and took lunch to him at the apartment he shared with the defendant. The decedent got into the girlfriend’s car, and they all drove to the bank. The decedent withdrew money from her bank account by over-drafting, and then they all drove back to the decedent’s home. Jay and the decedent went inside, and while the girlfriend was waiting, she got a text from the defendant asking for a ride. The girlfriend gave him the ride and came back.
The police interviewed the defendant after the decedent’s death, and the defendant admitted he’d given the decedent the phone number of someone who’d traveled to another city to buy drugs. However, he refused to identify the buyer of the heroin because he didn’t want to snitch.
The defendant was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of delivering a controlled substance on an accountability theory. The defendant moved for acquittal or a new trial. The motion was denied.
The defendant appealed. The appellate court explained that in order for a defendant to be convicted under a theory of accountability, the prosecution would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he tried to help someone else in planning or committing the crime, did so before or during the commission of the crime, and did so with the concurrent specific intent of promoting or facilitating the commission of the offense.
The defendant can be guilty under this theory if the prosecution shows beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had the same intent as the principal who committed the crime or demonstrates there was a common scheme. Accountability looks at how culpable the offender is and tries to deter others from intentionally helping the offender to commit a crime. There’s no guilt without intent.
In this case, the heroin sale that wound up killing the decedent couldn’t have happened without the defendant’s involvement, and the defendant knew this. Therefore, there was enough evidence to find him guilty. The appellate court also affirmed the defendant’s waiver of a jury trial to be valid and knowing. It affirmed the conviction.
Each drug crime case is different, and an experienced attorney can make sure you present a strong defense. James Dimeas is an award-winning Chicago drug crime attorney and author with more than 24 years of experience. If you are charged with a drug crime in Illinois, contact me in Cook (312-229-5500), DuPage and Kane (630-504-2096), or Lake (847-696-6458) County for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal options.
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