Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — A man accused of attempted second-degree murder and other crimes declined to testify on Monday, clearing the way for closing arguments and jury deliberations to begin today.
Anthony Gallegos’ defense attorneys rested their case shortly after one of the defendant’s alleged victims failed to appear in court for additional testimony.
Jeremy Montoya previously testified last week as a witness for the prosecution. At that time, 12th Judicial District Judge Pattie Swift advised him that he remained under subpoena.
But for reasons that were never clearly articulated, Montoya did not return to the witness stand when Deputy Public Defender Christopher Light called his name on Monday afternoon.
Deputy District Attorney Mark Loy alleges that Gallegos deliberately stabbed Montoya in the heart during a July 22, 2012 altercation in the 800 block of 10th Street. Gallegos then stabbed Michael Sanchez as the second man rushed to his friend’s aid, Loy claims.
However, Light maintains that his 21-year-old client acted in self-defense.
Defense witnesses said on Monday that Montoya, his brother Samuel and Sanchez were chasing Gallegos across town in the minutes leading up to the alleged stabbings.
A woman who lives in the 1500 block of Edison Avenue testified that she saw a car matching the description of Samuel Montoya’s vehicle pursuing a second car that one of Gallegos’ friends was driving.
That friend, Celina Rodriguez, testified that she tried to get away from the other car by racing down State Avenue, 17th Street and other streets on the south side of Alamosa.
Rodriguez said she first accelerated after the second vehicle pulled up alongside her car and someone inside it threw a glass lid at them, striking Gallegos in the face.
“I was trying to get away from them,” she said.
As she sped up, Rodriguez said the other car rushed up to her vehicle.
“I thought they were going to run into my car or drive me off the road or something,” she said.
Lucy Atencio, who was also riding in Rodriguez’s vehicle, estimated that the chase went on for 20 minutes. She said that everyone in the car was so scared that Rodriguez raced down city streets and through stop signs at speeds of about 65 miles per hour.
Rodriguez said the chase finally ended when she stopped on 10th Street and the driver of the pursuing car slammed on his brakes in front of her.
At that point, she said, Gallegos stepped out of her vehicle and threw a 40-ounce beer bottle at the other car.
After she heard the rear windshield of that car shatter, Rodriguez saw the Montoya brothers and Sanchez run toward Gallegos, she said.
Jeremy Montoya was the first of the three men who reached Gallegos, she said.
“That’s when they all started fighting,” she said. “They were like all fighting Anthony and that’s when I seen Anthony hit the ground.”
Both Rodriguez and Atencio said they didn’t see the stabbings firsthand, although Atencio testified that Sanchez was carrying a knife.
Another defense witness, who was in the neighborhood helping a friend repair a car, also claimed that one of the men from the pursuing vehicle was armed with a knife.
Perhaps not surprisingly, those statements conflict with the accounts that Sanchez and Jeremy Montoya previously gave the court.
The two men testified last week that they were not carrying weapons of any kind before the incident occurred, although police later found the knife on the center console of Samuel Montoya’s vehicle. (Sanchez previously testified that he retrieved the weapon after the fight and placed it inside a back-seat pocket.)
Both alleged victims testified that Gallegos rushed at them with the knife after the windshield shattered and they stepped out of the car to find out what was happening.
According to Sanchez, Gallegos raced toward Jeremy Montoya and stabbed his friend in the heart. Sanchez testified that Gallegos then stabbed him numerous times before he gained control of the weapon and stabbed Gallegos in self-defense.
Sanchez denied that he or the Montoya brothers had been following or threatening Gallegos in the minutes leading up to the incident.
“There was no threats,” he said on July 23.
Jeremy Montoya, meanwhile, said he couldn’t remember what they were doing beforehand. He also claimed for the first time last week that he initially pulled over on 10th Street because another car was following him.
However, Samuel Montoya’s girlfriend testified on Monday that all three men had been looking for Gallegos earlier that day.
Nancy Gallegos, who is also the mother of Gallegos’ children, said that Samuel Montoya “wasn’t very happy” when he learned that the defendant was back in town.
At some point after he left her home that day, he called and asked her to phone Gallegos’ mother, she said.
“I was supposed to tell her to tell Anthony to come outside,” she said.
She testified that she didn’t know why Montoya made the request, although she told a defense investigator last July that her boyfriend wanted to fight with Gallegos.
In addition to the main charge, Gallegos stands accused of disorderly conduct, criminal mischief and two enhanced counts of first-degree assault. Under the law, he is presumed to be innocent unless a jury determines that the prosecution has proven its case against him beyond a reasonable doubt.