FARMINGTON — After a three-day trial, Nicholas Montano walked out of the San Juan County Detention Center a free man last week for the first time since his arrest in January 2012.
Montano was arrested on Jan. 3, 2012, after he reportedly beat and raped an Aztec woman. He was charged with first-degree felony criminal sexual penetration, first-degree felony kidnapping, third-degree felony assault with intent to commit a violent felony and third-degree felony tampering with evidence.
The trial went to jury on May 28 and the jury found Montano not guilty on May 30.
Montano said he was relieved when the jury came back with the not guilty plea.
"I felt wonderful, but I shouldn't have been there (in jail) in the first place," Montano said during a phone interview.
Montano said he met the woman who accused him of raping her in 2009.
Montano and the woman decided to celebrate New Year's Eve together. They two of them bought Goldschläger, a cinnamon flavored schnapps, from a nearby convenience store and both of them drank some. During the trial,the woman admitted to having smoked meth earlier that day and taking anti-depressants.
Following the trial, Eric Morrow, Montano's attorney, said the case hinged on the woman being "blacked-out" rather than knocked out.
He said when someone is blacked-out they are able to act but do not remember anything that happens during that period of time.
She said she remembers starting to do the dishes in her trailer, according to court documents. The next thing she remembers is waking up naked and "wrapped up like a burrito" in her bedspread on the bathroom floor, which was covered in blood, according to court documents.
The woman said she does not think it was possible for her to be blacked out and said she thinks Montano hit her over the head, according to court records.
According to the records, she said when she woke up in the morning she felt like she was in a fog, although it was not a hangover. Every inch of her body hurt, she said, especially her private area.
She left the bathroom and found that her house, which she said she usually keeps as tidy as possible, was a mess. When she asked Montano what happened, he said it was from the alcohol.
She drove Montano — who she found on her couch masturbating, according to court documents — to a Farmington park.
"I'm pretty sure he thought I was dead," she said during the trial, according to court documents.
After she had returned to her trailer, a friend insisted that she go to urgent care.
Tamara Evans, the sexual assault nurse examiner who treated the woman after the event, testified during the trial.
Evans said the woman came alone. She also said the woman did not have black eyes and didn't say anything about being wrapped up, according to court documents.
However, the woman did have a laceration that was fresh and oozing blood, Evans told the court.
Montano's semen was found on a pillow case in the trailer, but not on vaginal or anal swabs or on bed sheet cuttings or the woman's underwear, according to court records.
The woman spent a couple of days in the hospital and was unable to attend the preliminary hearing in January 2012 because of injuries she said she sustained during the assault.
On May 28, she told the court that she can't sleep at night and when she does sleep she has bad dreams.
Montano said he feels sorry for the woman and described her as a "very vindictive person."
"I don't hold ill feelings toward her," he said.
In another case, Montano was convicted on felonies that included second-degree murder while armed with a firearm and second-degree felony armed robbery for the shooting death of Duane Babcock in March 1989.
Montano maintains that the weapon belonged to Babcock and that Babcock had drawn it on him. While wrestling over the gun, Montano said he accidentally shot and killed Babcock.
"God knows I did not intend to kill that guy," Montano said.