Closing Arguments Delivered in a Modesto ‘Halloween’ Sexual Assault Trial – Jury Deliberating

By Isabelle Brady

MODESTO, CA – The jury here in Stanislaus County Superior Court Tuesday heard closing arguments in the trial of Ernesto Montellano, accused of three counts of sexual crimes for events that allegedly happened on Oct. 20, 2019. As of Wednesday the jury had not delivered a verdict.

Deputy District Attorney Samuel Luzados began his closing statement with a recap of his narrative: “After that Halloween party, the defendant, seeing that everybody else in the house was asleep, saw that as an opportunity to take advantage of a drunk 16-year-old girl who was passed out in that downstairs bedroom.”

Luzados briefly detailed exactly what is alleged to have happened that night, noting that Montellano is then alleged to have picked up the victim and carried her out of the house, intending to commit further sexual acts, when he was caught in the backyard at 3 a.m.

That the victim suffered sexual assault on Oct. 20, 2019, did not seem to be in dispute. The point of contention was whether or not it was Montellano who sexually assaulted her.

As Luzados said, “We’re not contesting the elements of the crime.” The issue of the case was “whether or not this was done to Jane Doe or if it wasn’t, and if it wasn’t the defendant.”

Luzados mentioned how a witness who is Jane Doe’s friend and another person corroborated Jane Doe’s statement and said that Montellano was “giving her drinks, giving her shots throughout the night.”

“She saw the defendant in his skeleton costume, outside in the backyard, which is not contested by the defense at all,” said the DDA, noting, “The only contention is whether he’s carrying Jane Doe or not.”

According to Luzados, other witnesses saw the accused the next morning “banging on the door” because he “was wanting to get his stuff so that they could leave.

“The defense wants you to believe that this is all just a coincidence,” Luzados continued. “Again, he wakes up, in the middle of the night, and all these people wake up at the same time and see these different things that all conspire to show that he did this crime.”

“But the truth is it’s not a conspiracy. It’s common sense,” the DDA sad.

Montellano’s defense attorney, Cuong Nguyen, argued that it was the opposite of common sense to convict Montellano.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” Nguyen said, adding “the prosecution wants you to believe that Mr. Montellano came to this house party and committed a sexual assault on Ms. Doe.

“That doesn’t make any sense when you look at the facts,” Nguyen said. “Mr. Montellano is happily married…there’s no issues with their marriage, there’s no reason for Mr. Montellano to try to commit infidelity, let alone a sexual assault in a house where his wife was sleeping right next to him, where his children were also present at the party and sleeping over.”

“His sister was in the very same room as Ms. Doe,” said Nguyen, arguing, “Not only that, but we are led to believe that Mr. Montellano would commit such an act in a bedroom that’s right next door to where his wife was sleeping? …and in a bedroom where his sister was sleeping?”

Nguyen challenged the prosecution’s reasoning further, asking why Montellano would not finish an act that he started in the room, but instead “take a risk, pick up Ms. Doe, hope that she doesn’t yell and scream or alert others, wake up his sister, and wake up his wife…and walk outside of the house in a place that he’s unfamiliar with.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said the defense, noting “none of the other men in the house were investigated or talked to by law enforcement. Maybe they didn’t see much. Maybe they didn’t see or hear anything. Maybe they did.”

Nguyen said a man named Christian was not at the trial. In his closing argument, he presented Christian as an alternate suspect.

Beyond strictly narrative facts, the two attorneys also addressed the DNA evidence presented in the trial.

DDA Luzados said that the gist of what [the expert] concluded from her tests were that the vaginal swabs that were taken from Jane Doe…indicated the presence of male DNA.”

“That male DNA was then tested and compared to the defendant’s DNA. The Y chromosome…matched his father’s line of Y chromosomes,” said the DDA.

According to Nguyen, however, the expert said that there was “a trivial amount” of DNA. Additionally, he mentioned that Montellano was not required to submit his DNA for comparison—he did so voluntarily, “because he’s innocent.”

At the end of both closing arguments, Judge Shawn Bessey sent the jury to deliberate.

About The Author

Isabelle is a first year undergraduate student at UC Santa Barbara majoring in philosophy. Her passions include writing, criminal justice reform and reading Kurt Vonnegut. She may or may not eventually attend law school.

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