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Friday, May 15, 2009

Testimony Concludes in FL "Stand Your Ground" Hearing

Here's the story from Tampa Bay Online:
By TOM BRENNAN
The Tampa Tribune
Published: May 14, 2009

TAMPA - It will be mid-June before a judge rules on whether a towing company owner was
justified in killing a man who was reclaiming his wife's car.Donald Montanez is seeking immunity from prosecution under the state's Stand Your Ground law in the fatal shooting of Glen "Chuck" Rich on Jan. 8, 2006.Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robert A. Foster said today he wold issue a written ruling June 12. Foster wanted to rule sooner but agreed to give attorneys more time to file written arguments.
"We have been working on this litigation for three years," said Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner. "All I am asking for is three weeks."Foster said he would immediately begin working on his ruling based on the three days of testimony he heard this week and lawyers' oral arguments
presented today.
"It is a tragic set of circumstances," Foster said.Montanez shot Rich about 5 a.m. as Rich was driving off in his wife's Chrysler Sebring, which Montanez's employees had towed from behind the after-hours club Sugar Shack on East Hillsborough Avenue.
The car, along with other towed vehicles, had been taken to a parking lot on Bonacker Road to await transfer to the firm's impound lot. Another club patron found the lot and took Rich there along with Rich's two brothers and friend.
Montanez and his employee Lorraine Marie Whitehead testified that Rich was gunning the engine
toward them and that they thought they would be run over. They said Rich had hit another tow truck driver, Cory Crites, moments before.
"He just saw one of his employees struck by a deadly weapon seconds before and he was to be the next target," said Jay Hebert, one of Montanez's attorneys."Mr. Montanez had a right to pull that trigger."
But Pruner said the physical evidence showed Montanez fired at Rich through the open passenger-side window, hitting him under the right armpit.
"He had no right to shoot in the passenger's side of a car that was already past him," he said.
Pruner said Montanez illegally towed the Sebring and had no right to keep it from Rich. He said Montanez was more interested in collecting his $150 to $200 towing fee than defending himself or Whitehead.
"Donald Montanez was acting at all times like a 21st-century road pirate," he said. "The one thing on his mind was to preserve and protect his treasure."
Pruner said state law does not allow the use of deadly force to protect a car.
Hebert said the legality of the towing was irrelevant."Mr. Montanez has the right to defend himself regardless of the tow situation," he said.
Hebert wants Foster to dismiss the second-degree murder charge in Rich's death, as well as the aggravated assault charges Montanez faces for allegedly pointing his gun at Rich's brothers and friend.
Pruner said Montanez can't invoke the Stand Your Ground law on the aggravated assault
charges because he denied pointing the gun at two of the men.
He said any danger Montanez felt lapsed when he and Whitehead stepped out of the path of the
Sebring.
Hebert said the Stand Your Ground law only requires Montanez to present a predominance of the evidence to gain immunity."It is a mountain of evidence," he said of his case.
Reporter Tom Brennan can be reached at (813) 259-7698

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