Updated 5/4/2011 3:04 p.m.
After deliberating for more than four hours Friday afternoon, a jury found Trini Morado guilty of kidnapping of a Riverside teenager last year. Morado was found guilty of forcing a 14-year-old Riverside-Brookfield High School freshman into a car on the night of Feb. 26, 2010, and driving around Riverside with him trying to find out who robbed the East Burlington apartment where Morado’s sister and nephew lived the day before.
Morado was found not guilty of eight other charges, including six counts of aggravated kidnapping and two counts of battery, for his actions against two other Riverside teenagers in a trial that took place over parts of four days last week at the Maybrook courthouse in Maywood.
Lead defense attorney Miguel Miranda said that he was very disappointed with the verdict.
“I’m shocked that it wasn’t not guilty all around,” Miranda said.
The prosecutors said that they could not comment, because the case of Steven Morado, Trini’s nephew, is pending. Steven Morado will be tried separately on the same charges.
Trini Morado, a 40-year-old man from the Southwest Side of Chicago, was accused of driving to Riverside on Feb. 26, 2010 with Steven Morado intent on getting revenge for the burglary of his sister’s apartment.
Morado was charged with forcing or tricking three Riverside teenagers into his green Nissan Maxima.
“Despite previous conceptions of what is and isn’t kidnapping the actions of the defendant fit the definition of kidnapping,” said Dominic Marella the foreman of the jury.
The Morados drove around Riverside with two teenagers and attempted to drive off with a third teenager they suspected of committing the burglary.
The bizarre night began when the Morados drove out to Riverside and picked up an 18 year old who they thought may have been involved in the burglary. The jury found Morado not guilty of kidnapping the teen, who was the first witness in the trial.
“He had ample amount of time to get away,” said juror Mike Bruno.
After first suspecting that the 18 year old was involved in the burglary, the Morados became convinced that another teen was behind the burglary. They picked up Trini Morado’s nephew, who lived in the apartment that had been burglarized. They drove to the home of the nephew’s best friend, a 14 year old who they knew would show where the person the Morados believed committed the burglary lived.
“My uncle wants to talk to you,” Trini Morado’s young nephew told the 14 year old, according to the testimony of both boys last week.
The 14 year old testified that Trini Morado, who weighs about 300 pounds, shoved him into the car.
“He grabbed me and threw me in the back of his car,” the boy told the jury.
The 14 year old testified that he was forced to sit on the middle of the back seat with the 18 year old and Trini Morado’s young nephew on either side of him and the older two Morados in the front seats.
A friend of the 14 year old who witnessed the kidnapping also testified during the trial. That corroborating evidence was the major factor in the guilty verdict on the charges involving Salerno the two jurors said.
“The second witness, that was the key,” Bruno said. “That was the only one where they had a witness to it.”
The 14 year old testified that he was asked to give the 18 year old the phone number of another RB freshman, then 15 years old, who the Morados suspected of being involved in the burglary. The 14 year old also pointed out the apartment in the 200 block of East Burlington where the 15 year old lived.
Then the 14 year old was driven home and let out of the car.
“They told me to keep my mouth shut,” the boy testified. “They said they would come find me and my mom if they figured out I was involved with the burglary.”
After letting the 14 year old out of the car, one of the Morados called the 15 year old, saying they wanted to buy some drugs from him. They drove to the teen’s Burlington Street apartment and pulled in the driveway.
The 15 year old testified that he came out with some marijuana and a scale that he was asked to bring by the caller. The teen testified that he got in the car to make the sale, but left the rear door open and kept one foot on the driveway just in case he had to make a quick escape.
“You robbed the wrong [expletive] house,” Morado said to the 15 year old, according to teen’s testimony in court. Morado’s car sped off in reverse down the driveway and the 15 year old quickly jumped out of the car. He testified that he was enraged and punched the car windows when he got out before running away.
He testified the Morados chased him, one of them brandishing a hammer. The 15 year old stated that the hammer was thrown at him and hit him in the back but only caused a scratch. The commotion resulted in numerous 911 calls and police responded in force, taking Trini and Steven Morado along with the 15 year old into custody.
In court the 15 year old could not identify Trini Morado. The teen stated he had been drinking beer and smoking pot with friends that night. Morado was found not guilty of all charges involving the 15 year old.
When asked by a defense lawyer if he had taken items that were found in a police search of his bedroom, including a Nintendo Wii and XBox 360 console, the 15 year old said no. When asked if he knew who took them, the prosecution objected and the objection was sustained, so the 15 year old never answered the question.
The defense only called two witnesses, the Morados’ young nephew and a niece of Trini Morado. The nephew testified that he never saw a hammer the entire evening. He also testified that an XBox 360 console, a Nintendo Wii game, digital scales and two laptop computers were stolen from his apartment. He testified that his uncle told him that night that he was going to try and get his property back for him. Trini Morado did not testify in his own defense.
The defense argued that Trini Morado was simply trying to get back his nephew’s possessions and at one point the defense suggested that Morado intended to make a citizens arrest.
Miranda argued to the jury that the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury agreed with him on eight of the 11 counts.
In their closing arguments, prosecutors said that Morado was trying to take the law into his own hands. They suggested that Morado was angry because drugs and small scales were taken from the apartment and ridiculed the notion that he was concerned about his nephew’s video games. They implied that Trini Morado was a drug dealer.
“It wasn’t the Wii,” said prosecutor Tom Kougias. “It was his stash of dope. He’s putting him out of business. … He’s trying to get his dope back.”
Morado faces a sentence of from six to 30 years in prison. Sentencing is set for May 26.