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State v. Michelotti

Supreme Court of Montana

June 26, 2018

STATE OF MONTANA, Plaintiff and Appellee,
v.
CHRISTOPHER JAMES MICHELOTTI, Defendant and Appellant.

          Submitted on Briefs: May 9, 2018

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Thirteenth Judicial District, In and For the County of Yellowstone, Cause No. DC 14-0957 Honorable Ingrid G. Gustafson, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Kristina Neal, Assistant Appellate Defender, Helena, Montana

          For Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Mardell Ployhar, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana

          Scott D. Twito, Yellowstone County Attorney, Ed Zink, Brett Linneweber, Deputy County Attorneys, Billings, Montana

          OPINION

          Laurie McKinnon Justice

         ¶1 Christopher James Michelotti appeals from a judgment of the Thirteenth Judicial District Court, Yellowstone County, entered after a jury convicted him of aggravated burglary and four counts of assault with a weapon. We affirm and address the following issues:

1. Whether the District Court abused its discretion by admitting evidence that Michelotti is affiliated with a gang.
2. Whether the District Court erred by denying Michelotti's motion for mistrial.
3. Whether sufficient evidence supported the jury's determination that Michelotti assaulted Garrick Gonzales with a weapon.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶2 In the early evening of May 11, 2014, Valerio Resendiz (Valerio), Valerio's friend, Garrick Gonzales (Gonzales), and Valerio's girlfriend, Sabre Dillon (Dillon), drove to Daniel Lira's (Lira) house in Billings, Montana. Dillon remained in the vehicle while Valerio and Gonzales stepped inside. Inside Lira's house, Valerio and Gonzales saw Lira and met Michelotti for the first time. During their encounter, Michelotti held a black semiautomatic handgun and Valerio saw drugs and other guns inside Lira's house. As a result, Valerio felt "uncomfortable." Michelotti told Valerio that he was in a gang, the Sureños, and Valerio told Michelotti that he used to be a Sureño. This prompted Michelotti to ask Valerio why his head was not shaven and suggested Valerio "put in work" with Michelotti, which Valerio understood to mean Michelotti wanted his help committing crimes. Valerio explained to Michelotti that he and his girlfriend recently had a child and that he no longer commits crimes. Valerio believed Michelotti was high on methamphetamine based on Michelotti's behavior and Valerio's experience being around other users. Valerio and Gonzales stayed at Lira's house for about five minutes.

         ¶3 After leaving, Valerio, Gonzales, and Dillon went to Valerio's parents' house, where Valerio, Dillon, and their five-month-old child lived and where Gonzales was a frequent overnight guest. Valerio's parents, Carla Resendiz (Carla) and Adan Resendiz (Adan), were at home with Valerio and Dillon's child. Valerio told his parents about their interaction at Lira's house and about meeting a man who made him uncomfortable because he held a gun. Between nine and ten o'clock that evening, Carla and Adan went downstairs to their basement bedroom for the night. Valerio, Gonzales, and Dillon remained in the upstairs living room watching television while Valerio and Dillon's child slept in her portable crib in the adjoining dining room.

         ¶4 At approximately eleven o'clock that evening, Michelotti knocked on Valerio's parents' front door. Valerio looked at his home security system's monitor, which conveyed real-time video from six exterior cameras. Valerio installed the camera system several years earlier in response to thefts and damages of vehicles on the premises. Valerio did not recognize that it was Michelotti at the front door because of the camera system's poor image quality. Valerio opened the door and Michelotti stepped inside uninvited. Michelotti again urged Valerio to "put in work," or go commit crimes, with him. Valerio told Michelotti that he had a family and that he would not commit crimes with him. Michelotti became "upset," pulled the handgun that Valerio saw him holding earlier, and pointed it at Valerio. Dillon, who was holding her recently awoken child, told Michelotti to leave and Michelotti then pointed ...


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