After a long day in court last week, a jury returned guilty verdicts in the case of a man who stole two mountain bikes last October, and then struck a bike shop employee with his car as he fled the scene.
Christopher Montes of Rowland Heights, California, was found guilty on Wednesday, Feb. 8, of second-degree felony theft and third-degree felony aggravated assault. The jury also found him guilty of class B misdemeanor possession or use of a controlled substance and a speeding infraction, although it acquitted him of a misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia charge.
Following repeated outbursts during the trial in 7th District Court, Judge Lyle R. Anderson declared that the defendant was in contempt of court, and ordered him to serve 90 days in jail for “insolent behavior.”
The case against Montes dates back to Oct. 20, 2016, when he used bolt cutters to steal Ibis Ripley and Yeti SB 4.5 mountain bikes from Poison Spider Bicycles. According to a Moab City Police Department report on the incident, the bikes had a combined retail value of $12,400.
When Poison Spider employee Mark Caminiti saw what was happening, he rushed out of the shop and confronted the man, who was seconds away from getting ready to drive off.
Montes reportedly said, “(The bikes) are just sitting there – why not take them?” when Caminiti asked him what he was doing. As Montes began to verbally threaten him, Caminiti grabbed one bike from the car’s rack and threw it onto the ground, yelling “bike thief!”
In response, Poison Spider employee Aaron Lindberg and another employee rushed out of the store, where they witnessed Caminiti scuffling with the suspect.
Caminiti jumped out of the way as the driver accelerated his matte-black Honda. Lindberg, meanwhile, stood in the car’s way as Montes sped off. As the vehicle rushed toward him, Lindberg said he had no choice but to “run up the car.”
Lindberg ended up on the hood of the vehicle, rolling over the top and then onto the trunk, as Montes continued to drive about 30 to 40 yards. However, when Montes accelerated and made what Caminiti called a “crazy 180” degree turn on Main Street, Lindberg was thrown off the vehicle, landing on his side and sustaining a minor knee injury when he hit the asphalt.
Police were already on their way to the bike shop when the reporting officer received a call that a Utah Highway Patrol trooper pulled over a vehicle that matched the description on U.S. Highway 191 north of Moab. The trooper who initiated the traffic stop reported that Montes was driving 87 miles per hour in a 65 mile-per-hour zone.
After he was taken into custody, Montes said that he was a “bike enthusiast” and that he had enough money to pay for the bikes, according to the police report.
If he wanted them, he said, he would “just buy them,” according to the police report. However, although Montes had $1,150 cash in his pocket, he had no wallet and no credit cards, or any other means to pay for the bikes, police reported.
He subsequently declared in court filings that he is indigent, leading the judge to appoint Grand County Public Defender Don Torgerson as his attorney.
Just two days before the trial was scheduled to begin, Montes asked the court during a pretrial conference for a new attorney. The judge denied that request, but he added that Montes could hire someone else, provided that attorney was ready to go to trial on Feb. 8.
Montes failed to do so, but after the jury was selected, he “fired” Torgerson and then proceeded to represent himself.
As the day wore on, Judge Anderson repeatedly warned Montes not to speak without the court’s permission, yet he continued to speak out of turn, racking up contempt of court violations in the process. After a lunch break, however, Montes retained Torgerson’s services once again.
Montes is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday, March 28, and he remains behind bars in the interim.
On the second-degree felony theft charge alone, he faces a potential penalty of one to 15 years in state prison – plus a fine of up to $10,000. The aggravated assault charge carries a potential penalty of zero to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.
“Insolent” defendant held in contempt of court