Because Jesse James Montoya was sent to prison Friday, his father predicts a gang-related "blood bath."
"It's going to be worse after tonight," Alfred Montoya said Friday following his son's sentencing. "They're just waiting for me to go home and tell them what happened here."Jesse Montoya, 18, was sentenced to zero to five years at the Utah State Prison for shooting a rival gang member four times during a fight at a Midvale con-ve-nience store in May.
"This case is one of the most blatant, premeditated acts of violence I have seen since I've been on the
bench," said 3rd District Judge Frank Noel, who also tacked on a consecutive zero-to-five-year term because he used a firearm in the crime.
Prosecutors plan to recommend to the Board of Pardons that it keep him in prison for as much of the 10 years as possible.
But Alfred Montoya said prison isn't likely to do his son any good.
"He's got guys there waiting for him to make him some kind of hero. I've had people down there call me up and ask, `When is your son coming down?' " he said.
"They're going to make him a colonel. He was just a soldier, now they're going to make him an officer."
Despite his age, Montoya is no stranger to the justice system. When he was only 8 years old, he was arrested for felony theft. Over the years, he's been convicted of 40 different crimes, according to his father.
Finally, the 114th allegation in juvenile court made against him - attempted murder - was the final straw, and he was certified as an adult.
"The defendant's juvenile record is a joke," wrote Assistant Salt Lake County Attorney Greg Skordas, who agreed with an Adult Probation and Parole recommendation for a prison sentence.
On May 7, Melvin Garcia, 27, was shot four times. He had been wiping rain spots off his car when a masked Montoya approached him and chased him into a Midvale convenience store at 20 S. Main. As Garcia opened the door, Montoya fired the first shot, which also broke the glass in the door.
A second shot was fired once they were both inside the store. Garcia slipped to the floor. Montoya ran up to where he was lying and fired two more rounds into his body, according to Midvale police.
Montoya told investigators he shot "in retaliation for Worm." Worm was a moniker used by Montoya's cousin, Jeremy Gaitin, a 19-year-old Millcreek man who was stabbed to death during a fight between rival gang members at a Jan. 15 party in West Valley City.
Although investigators consider Garcia a suspect in that stabbing, no charges have been filed.
Defense attorney Brooke Wells said Friday that Montoya's shooting was connected to the "needless loss of his cousin."
"He believed he acted with some moral justification," she said of her client. "This rose more out of a family problem and a family loyalty than it did out of a gang problem."
Wells told the judge that Garcia has been involved in "many, many violent actions against people," including once firing a gun through the windshield of a car driven by an elderly woman.
The attorney encouraged the judge to send him for a prison diagnostic evaluation, calling Montoya a product of a "very dysfunctional upbringing where violence was probably the norm."
"I've had a rough life, and all I ask is some kind of help be given me," Montoya said. He told the judge he wants to move to Arizona and start again because he fears someone will kill him if he stays here.
"I want to go where nobody knows me . . . and raise my baby to become someone different," he said.
But Noel said Montoya had already been given enough oppor-tun-i-ties.
"This records shows you do need some help, but society needs some protection," he said. "It's consistent with your record, a record that continues to escalate. Pages and pages of opportunities you've had to get help and turn things around, but you didn't take advantage of that."
Garcia was sent to Decker Lake, the juvenile equivalent of prison, two different times and served a total of 24 months. He was released at the end of February, then arrested again minutes after the May 7 shooting.
"He was actually a good kid for almost two months," Skordas said.
Alfred Montoya said friends and family are upset with the irony that Jesse Montoya is going to prison for injuring someone, yet others remain free and unpunished after killing someone.
"It's an ongoing thing. It's going to be a blood bath," he said.