The Minuteman Protection Program: Man accused of harassment, punching one of the workers

September 21, 2007 @

Posted by: Admin on Friday, September 21, 2007 – 09:09 AM PST

By Dana Littlefield
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

September 20, 2007

DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO – A trial began yesterday for a Los Angeles County man described as an anti-illegal immigration activist who fought with day laborers last year on a busy Rancho Peñasquitos road.

John Matthew Monti, 36, was snapping photos of the men as they waited for work beneath a freeway overpass. The men, some of whom were undocumented immigrants from Mexico, objected to having their pictures taken, which led to the fight.

Prosecutors contended yesterday in San Diego Superior Court that Monti harassed the workers, called them insulting names and punched one of them as they fought in the street.

But a defense lawyer said Monti was attacked as he documented information about migrant camps in North County.

Jurors will be asked to decide whether Monti is guilty of seven misdemeanors, including battery and filing a false police report. Among the charges are several civil rights violations, which are misdemeanor hate crimes.

The lawyers would not comment on a possible sentence if Monti is convicted.

Deputy City Attorney Scott Pirrello told jurors during his opening statement that Monti was “out of control” Nov. 18, when he took photos of day laborers while standing only a few feet away.

Defense attorney Allison Aranda said Monti, who lives in Bellflower, drove to San Diego to distribute fliers supporting his “mission.” She described Monti as a staunch opponent of human trafficking and prostitution, a problem she said is fed by migrant camps.

Aranda said Monti has no quarrel with Latinos. She noted that his wife is Colombian and that he has worked for 10 years as a teacher in bilingual schools.

“He was just documenting who was present, who was there,” Aranda said. “The men who worked there initiated the confrontation.”

Monti is reportedly a member of Save Our State, an anti-illegal immigration group.

Estanislao Gonzales testified yesterday that he was one of several men waiting for work along Rancho Peñasquitos Boulevard when Monti rode up on a motorcycle.

Gonzales said he tried to cover his face as Monti walked up and down the sidewalk taking photos. “I didn’t want to have my picture taken,” Gonzales said in Spanish.

Monti flagged down a police officer about 11 a.m. The officer testified he told the day laborers that Monti was free to take their photos, as long as they were on a public street.

When the officer left, Monti continued photographing the workers.

“He was getting very close to them to take their picture,” Gonzales said. “He wanted to take my picture very close.”

Gonzales testified that Monti pulled his arm and chased him into the street. As they fought, two other laborers joined the fray, one of whom hit Monti with a backpack.

Gonzales said Monti referred to them as “dirty Mexicans.”

Testimony is expected to continue today.

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