Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Was John Monti Nifonged? Or perhaps one should ask if John Monti is being Nifonged?

Mike Nifong was the District Attorney who rabidly pursued bogus rape charges against three Duke lacrosse players in order to bolster his political fortunes among African-Americans in North Carolina’s Durham County. Nifong won the race for reelection but later lost his job and law license when evidence of prosecutorial misconduct became overwhelming.

It is unlikely that Monti, the bilingual East Los Angeles schoolteacher recently prosecuted for assaulting day-laborers in Rancho Penasquitos on November 18, 2006, will receive the same vindication as the lacrosse trio. Last month a jury found John Monti “not guilty” of charges brought against him by the office of San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre. But the nature of Monti’s case, though it smacks of political opportunism, makes it harder to prove that the camera-loving City Attorney pursued Monti to punish anti-illegal alien groups.

The incident in question began when Monti and some day laborers got into a scuffle over pictures that Monti was taking of them. Obviously, taking snapshots of folks who might be here illegally isn’t a way to make friends. But Monti says his efforts were motivated by his belief that young girls were being sexually abused in nearby migrant camps.

News reports of the fight that day suggested that Monti came out on the short end of the stick—a not surprising result if the he-them ratio was around eight to one. Cuts and bruises, however, were the only injuries Monti sustained.

The police report taken that day might have been the end of the matter had not Monti filed a grand jury complaint against the San Diego Police Department for failing to investigate human trafficking and child prostitution in McGonigle Canyon. That complaint was filed March 1, 2007. Four weeks later (and four months after the original incident) Aguirre’s office put out a press bulletin announcing in bold letters that charges were being filed “AGAINST A MEMBER OF THE MINUTEMAN PROJECT.”

Monti was not, in fact, a member of the Minutemen, though he was affiliated with the anti-illegal group, Save Our State. Still, by erroneously highlighting the Minutemen, Aguirre’s office bolstered the suspicion that impartial legal judgment wasn’t what informed its prosecutorial decision. What later become clear was that the case against Monti was actively promoted by Claudia Smith, an open border activist and Executive Director of California Rural Legal Assistance in Oceanside.

At trial some laborers testified that it was Monti who was attacked—a point of view echoed by four 9-1-1 calls that were played in court and later aired on Roger Hedgecock’s radio program. Monti’s photos also helped convince jurors that testimony against him sometimes failed to pass the smell test.

Having been declared “not guilty” by a jury, Monti now faces a civil suit brought by the same CRLA lawyer who appeared with Claudia Smith when she announced on Fox News what Aguirre was going to do, prosecutionwise—two weeks later.

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