Poison Spider Bicycles employees Aaron Lindberg (left) and Mark Caminiti confronted a man attempting to drive away with two used mountain bikes on Oct. 20, 2016. That man, Christopher Montes, was sentenced to six months in county jail and at least a year in state prison on Tuesday, March 28. [Moab Sun News file photo]

The man caught stealing two high-end mountain bikes from Poison Spider Bicycles last October – and who nearly ran down two of the shop’s employees with his car when they confronted him – received a prison sentence of up to 15 years on Tuesday, March 28.

Christopher Montes, 39, of Rowland Heights, California, was convicted in district court in February on felony charges of theft and aggravated assault, a misdemeanor charge of possession or use of a controlled substance, and a speeding infraction. The charges all came from the Oct. 20 incident at Poison Spider, where employees Mark Caminiti and Aaron Lindberg attempted to stop Montes from driving away with two used bikes originally worth more than $12,000. Montes drove at the two, and when Lindberg jumped onto the car, pulled a high-speed U-turn in the middle of Highway 191 before fleeing north.

A Utah Highway Patrol trooper arrested Montes going more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit outside town, and found marijuana in the car. Police also found bolt cutters in the vehicle, which the prosecution claimed Montes used to cut the cable locks securing the bikes.

At the sentencing, Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald argued that Montes’ criminal history made prison the most appropriate sentence. Montes was previously imprisoned twice in California, and has a history of drug-related and domestic violence charges.

“Perhaps the most disturbing part of the criminal history is the violence that’s occurred,” Fitzgerald said. Of the October incident, he said, “It really shows a complete disregard for other people’s lives, not to mention their property.”

Grand County Public Defender Don Torgerson disputed some details of that criminal history as laid out in the prosecution’s pre-sentencing report. After some waffling by the defendant regarding the number of times he’d been to prison in California – Montes answered both “once” and “two times” just a few moments apart – Judge Lyle R. Anderson seemed satisfied that the record was clear.

“He says he’s gone to prison in California twice,” Anderson said. “That counts as two felonies, widely separated by 10 to 15 years … It’s admitted now.”

Torgerson asked the judge to impose a sentence of supervised probation rather than prison.

“Over time, he has maintained quite a lengthy period of no convictions,” Torgerson said.

The last time Montes appeared in court, he repeatedly interrupted proceedings, earning 90 days in jail for contempt of court. This time, he was apologetic.

“First I would like to apologize to the court here, and to you,” he said. “I came and wasted your guys’ time and made a fool of myself.”

He apologized to Anderson, to the sheriff’s deputies at the jail, to Fitzgerald, and to Torgerson.

“My counsel – he is probably the one who deserves the full bulk of my apology,” Montes said.

He also said he wished to apologize to the bike shop employees. The theft, he said, was “a bonehead move” during a time of emotional instability.

Though Montes said he accepts responsibility for his actions, he also digressed from his apologies to claim that someone else cut the locks on the bikes he had tried to steal.

“I witnessed somebody cutting them,” Montes said, giving a vague description of a man wearing shorts, a vest and a beanie. “Somebody else was gonna do that. I just happened to be inside, and I saw it through the window.”

Fitzgerald, responding to the defendant’s statements, stressed the value of the bikes that Montes had been loading onto his car.

“It’s really equivalent to walking into a mall and taking diamonds out of a diamond case,” he said.

Judge Anderson, after confirming that minor corrections to the pre-sentencing report would satisfy the defendant, delivered a sentence of one to 15 years in Utah state prison for the theft charge and zero to five years for the assault charge, to be served concurrently. He also sentenced Montes to six months in the Grand County Jail for the misdemeanor drug charge, with credit for the 113 days Montes spent in jail awaiting trial.

Anderson suspended the remaining 43 days of Montes’ 90-day contempt of court sentence.

Caminiti, speaking before the sentencing, said that the incident hasn’t made him worry any more than before about bike theft in Moab.

“It’s definitely a problem in big cities, as far as people cutting with quick-cutting tools and taking,” Caminiti said. In Moab, he said, that kind of theft is rare.

“If you have your bike locked to your rack in Moab, you’re probably not getting it stolen,” he said.

Statistics from the Moab police bear that out: Between March 2016 and March 2017, the department recorded just 17 bicycle thefts.

“Did we watch people a little more when they’re around the bikes? Maybe,” Caminiti said. “I think that was pretty much a fluke thing.”

He’s glad nobody was seriously injured in the scuffle.

“If it happened again, I don’t know if I would do that,” he said. “We got pretty lucky that day.”

Montes continues to claim “somebody else” cut shop’s locks

It’s really equivalent to walking into a mall and taking diamonds out of a diamond case.