The Minuteman Protection Program: Man accused of attacking day laborers acquitted

September 27, 2007 @

Posted by: Admin on Thursday, September 27, 2007 – 11:34 AM PST

By Dana Littlefield
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

September 27, 2007

DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO – A Los Angeles County man accused of attacking day laborers in Rancho Peñasquitos last year was acquitted yesterday of all charges.

Jurors found John Matthew Monti, 36, not guilty of several misdemeanors, including battery, filing a false police report and civil rights violations, which prosecutors described as hate crimes.

The panel deliberated for about a day and a half.

Monti, who lives in Bellflower and works as a sixth-grade teacher in a bilingual program, said outside the courtroom that he “felt good” now that the trial was behind him.

“I’m going to go back to work tomorrow and go back to my students,” he said.

During the trial, which began Sept. 19 in San Diego Superior Court, witnesses testified that Monti was snapping photos of day laborers on Rancho Peñasquitos Boulevard on Nov. 18 as they waited for work beneath a freeway overpass.

The men, some of whom were illegal immigrants from Mexico, objected to having their pictures taken, which led to a fight.

Deputy City Attorney Scott Pirrello contended that Monti provoked the fight by harassing the workers. Pirrello said witnesses saw Monti chase one of the laborers into the street and pull him down by his shirt.

The worker testified that Monti referred to him and others as “dirty Mexicans,” a claim Monti strongly denied.

Prosecutors also said Monti associated with the founder of the San Diego Minutemen, an anti-illegal immigration group. Monti’s lawyer described that connection as “distant.”

Defense lawyer Allison Aranda argued that the laborers attacked Monti and he fought back in self-defense. The attorney said one of the men threatened Monti with a 2×4, before Monti was attacked from behind.

She said it made little sense for Monti to provoke a fight, because he was outnumbered by at least eight men.

Monti testified that someone grabbed his $1,200 camera, which was hanging from his neck, and another person hit him with a backpack. He said he threw a few punches, but was concentrating on getting the camera back.

Aranda said in trial that Monti has “no quarrel” with Latinos. She said Monti is a staunch opponent of human trafficking and prostitution, which he says is fueled by migrant camps.

“He’s just a compassionate person who wants to solve a problem,” Aranda said Tuesday. She added that Monti drove to San Diego to distribute fliers supporting his cause.

Outside court yesterday, Monti said he believed the case was mishandled by police and that it was “extremely defamatory.”

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