Montoya's Lawyers Argue He Should Serve a Year or Less


Former Sen. Joseph B. Montoya, facing the possibility of prison for his conviction on seven corruption charges, should not be sentenced to more than a year behind bars, his lawyers argued in documents filed in federal court.

Montoya is due to be sentenced Thursday and his attorneys, Michael Sands and Bruce Kelton, contend that federal sentencing guidelines allow for a sentence of no more than six to 12 months in prison.

Earlier this week, federal prosecutors argued that, under the same guidelines, the Whittier Democrat's conviction on extortion, racketeering and money laundering charges calls for a term ranging from eight years and one month to 10 years and one month.

U.S. Atty. David F. Levi said Montoya's use of his Senate post to extort payments from citizens, his use of his state staff to help solicit money and his failure to turn over key documents subpoenaed by prosecutors are all factors that should increase his sentence.

Montoya's lawyers argued, however, that he had no control over what documents were turned over to the government by his staff under the subpoena.

"There is no evidence whatever that Sen. Montoya was ever aware of what specific documents had, or had not, been found," they said. "The government's paranoid suspicions cannot substitute for evidence."

Sands and Kelton also repeated their contention that the prosecution thwarted the senator's defense by refusing to grant immunity to Montoya aide Steve English, who invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to testify.

In a separate recommendation to U.S. District Judge Milton L. Schwartz, federal probation officers have recommended a sentence of 6 1/2 years in prison for Montoya.

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