Victory for defense in Carlos Montes case
By Scott Scheffer
Jun 14, 2012
The attempted railroading of longtime Chicano, anti-war and immigrant rights leader, Carlos Montes, drew to a close in Los Angeles on June 5 in a victory for the defense. In the end, a plea bargain was accepted that precluded jail time.
Carlos Montes, left, with placard.
photo: Scott Scheffer
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression had organized a vigorous defense and support campaign. As a result, hundreds of supporters had come to court appearances, thousands signed petitions to drop the charges, and the district attorney’s phone lines had been flooded by people calling to lodge their protest over this FBI-instigated frame-up.
The conviction on just one perjury charge, even if a bitter pill to swallow, stands in stark contrast to what Montes faced: a possible 18 – to 20-year prison sentence had he been convicted on all six of the original felony charges. Montes was sentenced to three years of probation and 180 hours of community service. It was a great accomplishment for the people’s movement to beat back this state vendetta.
People founded CSFR originally in response to an FBI campaign that targeted dozens of activists in the Midwest. It’s now known that the FBI had planted an informant and had been working this Cointelpro-style campaign as early as 2008. In 2010, the FBI raided people’s homes and the office of the Anti-War Committee in St. Paul, Minn. CSFR activists knew that the FBI wanted to go after Montes too, because his name appeared on the search warrant used in the raid on the St. Paul office.
In May of 2011, a SWAT team of L.A. sheriffs accompanied by FBI agents raided his Alhambra, Calif., home, arrested him and hit him with six felonies related to his ownership of firearms and the permit applications he’d filled out. The role of the FBI has been downplayed by the district attorney’s office in an attempt to depoliticize the case.
The trial had been scheduled to begin June 20, but Montes was summoned to court two weeks early with less than a half day’s notice. Legally speaking, Carlos Montes’ defense attorney, Jorge Gonzales, had worked hard and put together the best case possible. But this was a difficult case that was based on the characterization of a 40-year-old arrest in the aftermath of a police assault on a student demonstration for Chicano Studies in 1969. Over time, records had disappeared and memories of the particulars of the original case had faded.
If the judge in the current case had declared that evidence showed the old arrest had been for a felony, then the charges against Montes for being a convicted felon and owning a gun could have led to convictions on all charges. Even with all of the good defense work, and although there was a high level of confidence, there was never a breakthrough that anyone thought would guarantee this kind of a victory.
It was the people’s mobilization that saved Carlos Montes from a vicious state attack. Forty years of fighting racism, standing against imperialist war, for workers’ rights, defending public education and being a leading organizer in the immigrant rights movement led to this strong support and helped beat the state’s attack.
But the struggle is not over. Twenty-three of those who were initially targeted in the Midwest were subpoenaed. They are still bravely refusing to testify before a grand jury. This attack on the movement was a broad one, and the victory will only be complete when all of the subpoenas are withdrawn and the grand jury is dissolved.