Former sheriff's deputy acquitted of assault and battery

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A former Valencia County sheriff's deputy was found not guilty of two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of aggravated battery charges last week after a day and a half trial.

Emily Montoya was charged with beating up the wife and daughter of a man who once ran for county sheriff.

Montoya was accused of beating up Rhea Chavez and her daughter, Zoi, during a March 2011 scuffle at the home of the parents of Ron Chavez, who ran for sheriff in 2010. The jury took less than two hours to come back with their verdict.

"The jury did their job," said Kari Morrissey, Montoya's attorney. "The jury understood that there wasn't anything to this. This was a case that shouldn't have been brought (to court) and shouldn't have been pursued the last two years."

Montoya, who was alleged to have had an affair with Ron Chavez, was at the home of his parents the day of the altercation and worked as their caretaker.

Morrissey convinced jurors Montoya acted in self-defense during the altercation. She said a PVC pipe, which was less than four-foot long and one-inch around, couldn't have been a deadly weapon as the prosecution claimed.

"(The state prosecutor) wants you to determine that a piece of plastic is a deadly weapon," Morrissey said. "As a matter of justice, tell him no. It's ridiculous."

Morrissey painted Montoya as the victim and said she was the first to call for help.

The defense attorney questioned the testimony of Rhea and Zoi Chavez and said the two "barged into the house" the day of the incident. She said Rhea was upset because she thought Montoya was having an affair with her husband.

During her testimony, Rhea Chavez said she "couldn't recall" whether she was angry at Montoya the day of the altercation. That testimony contradicts a police report that said Rhea told deputies she suspected Montoya of having the affair.

"Rhea lied to you about her demeanor (that day)," Morrissey told jurors. "… You don't recall whether or not you suspected this woman of sleeping with your husband?"

Morrissey claimed deputies with the Valencia County Sheriff's Department didn't do their job by not taking a written statement from Montoya, and she wasn't charged until days after the incident.

According to a police report, Rhea Chavez and her daughter got into an physical altercation with Montoya shortly after arriving at the residence.

According to the police report, Montoya produced a PVC pipe and threatened Rhea and Zoi with it. When deputies arrived, they found the mother and daughter with visible signs of scratches and bruising on their legs, back, neck, arms and face. Both were transported to the University of New Mexico Hospital for their injuries, the report said.

The mother and daughter apparently went to the home to help the couple with some computer problems.

Montoya testified the fight started after Zoi Chavez hit her with a Windex bottle.

"When you get smacked in the face with a Windex bottle, you get to defend yourself," Morrissey said.

Prosecutor Bryan McKay said Montoya got "madder and madder" because the family members of Ron Chavez wouldn't leave. He said testimony by Montoya that she calmly picked up the PVC pipe and placed it in the bathroom was false.

"The defense was by the Chavezes," McKay said.

But Morrissey claimed the family of Ron Chavez were the aggressors. The attorney said Montoya is glad the matter is resolved.

"We are relieved it's over," Morrisey said.


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.