Carlos Montero was 17 when he was arrested for his alleged involvement in a Washington Heights murder on October 23, 2008. He has been awaiting trial at Rikers Island ever since, a New York Post investigation finds. Experts say that his detainment is unquestionably unconstitutional.
Prosecutors say Montero was with Jairo Peralta and Diangelo Enriquez when Peralta stabbed Brian Maldonado to death during a robbery and Enriquez stabbed another victim as that victim ran away. Montero says he wasn’t there. Prosecutors offered him a plea deal where he would serve 15 years, but he turned it down, because he says he’s innocent. His attorney tried to get his case separated from the cases against Peralta and Enriquez, the more active participants, but the judge blocked it. He has since abandoned even trying to make bail.
The Sixth Amendment protects the right to a speedy trial, so that accused criminals don’t spend years languishing in prison in case they’re innocent. The Sixth Amendment doesn’t define a precise timeline for a “speedy trial,” but nearly seven years is pretty clearly too long. New York State has a statute that defendants be tried within 180 days, but the statute doesn’t apply to murder cases.
Montero will probably eventually be freed, according to civil rights attorney Ron Kuby.
“This case is gold medal-winning when it comes to delay,” Kuby told the Post. “The longest period of time I’ve heard of is about five years in New York state. It seems a very clear constitutional violation to hold somebody for nearly seven years in pretrial detention without trial,” he said.
Montero himself just wants to go home. “I wasn’t there. I know I could sue, but no amount of money could get me justice for this. I just want my freedom,” he told the Post.
Kalief Browder, another teen who spent years at Rikers awaiting trial, committed suicide on June 6.
(Photo: Tim Rodenberg)