Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge misinterpreted "stand-your-ground" law in Hillsborough fatal shooting, attorney says

TAMPA — An appeals court will decide whether a Hills­borough County judge erred by not dismissing a murder charge against a tow company owner who claims it was self-defense when he shot and killed a man accelerating toward him and an employee.

Donald Montanez, 47, wants immunity from prosecution on a second-degree murder charge under Florida's "stand your ground" law, which allows people to meet force with force when they feel threatened.

Jay Hebert, Montanez's attorney, argued before the 2nd District Court of Appeal on Tuesday that Circuit Judge Robert Foster misinterpreted the law when he ruled that the threat of imminent danger had already passed when Montanez fired his .40-caliber pistol at Glen Rich, 30.

Foster said the law applies to altercations that take place inside a house or a vehicle. He also said Montanez knew or should have known that he and his employee were no longer in a "zone of uncertainty" as the car came toward them.

Hebert disagreed with those two assertions, saying that the law extends beyond a vehicle or a home. He then cited a case where Foster granted immunity to a man who shot and killed someone during an altercation that took place on a street.

Hebert also said Montanez didn't know whether his employee had jumped out of the path of the car. Hebert said the law allowed Montanez to act as her protector.

"This is a misapplication of the facts of the law," Hebert said of Foster's ruling.

Montanez said he fired once into a car driven by Rich to avoid being killed. An employee said she and Montanez had seconds to jump to safety when Rich drove toward them during an early-morning confrontation on Jan. 8, 2006, near an after-hours club on Hillsborough Avenue. Montanez says Rich became upset after learning his vehicle had been seized because it was parked illegally at a nearby business.

In May, the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office presented evidence that Montanez fired into the passenger's-side window of Rich's vehicle — proof, prosecutors said, that Montanez was no longer in danger.

Assistant Attorney General Timothy Freeland told the appeals panel that for Montanez to claim self-defense for him and his employee, he had to have known that she was still in harm's way. "The fact that he doesn't know where she is, that's a problem," Freeland said.

"Your stance is you don't want us to sanction firing shots on a maybe," appeals Judge Robert J. Morris said.

Morris later added that perhaps that was Foster's intention by including a line in his ruling that Montanez "knew or should have known" his employee's location.

Seconds before the shooting, another employee had come into contact with the car, though prosecutors dispute whether he had been hit or had intentionally jumped on the vehicle.

"It gives the defendant a reasonable basis to assume if it happened to one employee, it could happen to another or it could happen to him," Morris said.

After arguments, Hebert said he is ready to defend Montanez in "any way, shape or form" if the appeals court rules against him.

"This is a case that's going to be somewhat of a cutting-edge case. It's going to help create law."

Kevin Graham can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.

Judge misinterpreted "stand-your-ground" law in Hillsborough fatal shooting, attorney says 11/03/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 3, 2009 11:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday


    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102