Los Angeles, CA - “In the interests of justice this case should be dismissed,” said attorney Jorge Gonzales, lawyer for veteran Chicano leader Carlos Montes, in Los Angeles Superior Court, Jan. 24. Minutes later, though, Judge Lomeli sided with the prosecution, refusing to dismiss the six trumped up felony charges against Montes, on the grounds of insufficient evidence, setting the stage for a trial later this year. The court room was filled with supporters of Montes who wanted to see the charges dropped.
"This proves what we believed all along," said Eric Gardner, a member of the LA Committee to Stop FBI Repression, “The government is going to use all means at its disposal to try and get Carlos - and other anti-war and solidarity activists around the country - behind bars."
Before Montes’ court appearance, activists gathered outside the court building demanding that the charges, which carry up to 18 years in prison, be dismissed. The protesters ranged from long time political activists to street vendors from Central America who Montes is working with to fight police harassment and racist discrimination.
The prosecution has told the press that they want Montes to spend at least five years in jail.
Speaking in front of the court house, Mick Kelly, a spokesperson the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, whose Minneapolis home was also raided by the FBI stated, “On May 17, 2011, the L.A. Sheriff Department - acting at the behest of the FBI - raided Montes’s home. The pretext was phony violations of the firearm code. These alleged violations have no basis in reality whatsoever. At issue in this case are the civil liberties of all us who are standing up against war and injustice.”
The May 17 raid, by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department and members of the FBI, took place at 5:00 a.m. The L.A. County Sheriff’s SWAT team and Emergency Operations Bureau agents armed with automatic weapons broke down the door to Montes' home while he slept. They seized computers, cell phones, current and historical political documents and left Montes' home in shambles. Montes could have been killed.
Kelly continued, “Carlos Montes is one of the 24 anti-war and international solidarity activists who have been hit by FBI and grand jury repression since Sept. 24, 2010. Like many of the others who have been caught up in this witch hunt, Montes was one of the organizers of the massive protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention. And like the others, he has spoken out tirelessly against U.S intervention abroad and oppression here at home.
“Carlos Montes is a hero who has devoted his entire life to making this world a better place. In the 1960s he was a founder and leader of the Brown Berets, the historic East L.A. walkouts and the Chicano Moratorium. He is an important leader in the movement for immigrant rights and has worked to defend public education. Montes is an example of a community leader who serves the people and builds the people’s struggle for justice,” stated Kelly.
Montes' defense challenged the state’s claim that he has a felony record from his 1969 arrest for leading a student strike demanding Chicano Studies and Black Studies at East L.A. College. This is important. That the legal record does not support the claim of a past felony should rule out the District Attorney going ahead with this case. The government is alleging that it was a crime for Montes to buy several guns at a local sporting goods store, because of the nonexistent felony record.
The prosecution is basing their evidence on a 42 year old incident, where during this student strike and rally, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department invaded the East L.A. college campus, beating and arresting student protesters. During the turmoil, Montes was arrested and charged with assaulting a sheriff’s deputy.
"This case is not about old records," says Charla Schlueter of the LA Committee to Stop FBI Repression, "The FBI is dredging up a case over four decades old because of Carlos' involvement in the anti-war, immigrant rights and international solidarity movements today. They don't like that he is part of a movement that challenges U.S. imperialism."
Next court appearance
The next court date is Feb. 8. Montes says his legal team will continue the discovery process on the sheriffs to get ready for trial.
“The government knows its case against Carlos Montes is weak,” said Mick Kelly. “So they have made up a lie that Montes admitted to a felony record while he was being held in squad car after the raid on his home.” The point of the discovery motion is to get to the bottom of this false allegation.
See the L.A. Committee’s web site at http://www.stopfbila.net/index.html for further details on time and location for an emergency meeting to defend Carlos Montes in Los Angeles on Saturday, Feb. 11.
Montes states that he is looking forward to a jury trial and that he is confident that a jury of his peers will find him not guilty.