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Gulfport mechanic accused in 'heinous' rapes will face another trial

Michael Lee Montgomery is accused of raping and humiliating women in ways that shock even law enforcement veterans.

"It's probably the most heinous sexual battery I've seen," said Sgt. Robert L. Burkhart, a 10-year veteran of the Gulfport Police Department.

It's "certainly the most bizarre scenario I have ever seen," said Pinellas-Pasco Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett. "I can't fathom what goes on in a person's head to put them in a position to want to do this. … It's just disgusting."

Montgomery, a 6-foot, 220-pound, self-employed marine mechanic from Gulfport, is facing four counts of sexual battery against three women. In two cases, authorities say he not only raped the women, but also smeared feces over them and took Polaroid pictures of them. In one case, police say, he penetrated a woman with a bleach-covered fist. Police found hundreds of photos in his home.

But convicting Montgomery might not be easy — he has managed to avoid prison twice before in sexual battery cases, raising the possibility that he could beat these charges and ultimately walk free.

Montgomery was arrested in 1996 in Sarasota in what police considered a virtually ironclad case: Police stopped him in a car similar to one used in a recent rape, he had the victim's blood on his crotch, and officers found his wallet at the crime scene. But most charges, including sexual battery and kidnapping, were dropped. Prosecutors blamed it on inconsistent statements by the victim, and a defense attorney's plans to challenge whether the police stop had been legal.

Montgomery was tried in Pinellas County on newer charges in April, but a jury found him not guilty of two counts of false imprisonment and one count of sexual battery. The jury could not reach a verdict on three other counts of sexual battery, so he will be tried again in those cases later this month.

After he was found not guilty of the three charges on April 2, prosecutors on April 16 charged him with having raped another woman in 2007. Burkhart said it's possible some of the other women in Montgomery's photos also are victims.

People charged with rape, murder and other crimes often don't testify in their own trials. It's a strategic decision made with defense attorneys, who want to make sure their clients don't say something to hurt their own cases.

Montgomery, on the other hand, did take the witness stand in Pinellas County. He admitted cruising the streets of St. Petersburg and finding women he could pay for sex. He also admitted that he sometimes smeared feces on the women's faces and bodies and photographed them.

He maintained this was all "100 percent consensual," and that whatever he did to the women was actually "tame" compared to what he had seen on the Internet.

Besides, he said, he treated the women well.

"I mean, I'm a nice guy. I try to help these girls. I feed them. I pay the bills sometimes. I take and buy them clothes," he testified.

But the women he is accused of raping described their encounters with Montgomery in much different terms — without ever using the words "consensual" or "nice guy."

"He ruined my life," said one. After jumping out of his car and rushing to a convenience store phone, the woman called 911 and said "I was raped and kidnapped."

Another of the women said she was "disgusted" by the assault she described, and the feces, and felt like committing suicide afterward. However after Montgomery allegedly raped her, she said, "he asked me if I wanted to live with him" and also promised that "it wouldn't be like that every time."

Montgomery, who has been held in the Pinellas County Jail for more than a year, is scheduled to be retried on the three charges beginning Tuesday.

Gulfport mechanic accused in 'heinous' rapes will face another trial 06/21/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 21, 2009 9:13pm]
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