DENVER - The man who held up banks in Durango and Cortez this spring and summer is headed to prison for 20 years.
Michael Lee Montoya, 30, of Farmington received the sentence Thursday in federal court. A jury found him guilty on
five bank robbery counts in September.
Montoya held up Pine River Valley Bank in Durango on April 30 by threatening a teller with a hypodermic needle filled
with red juice. He told her it was HIV-infected blood. On June 8, he used a gun to rob a teller at Community Banks of
Colorado in Cortez.
I'm sorry for what I've done. I know I hurt people out there, especially my family and the tellers. If they were
here, I'd give them my most sincere apology," Montoya said.
Most of the hourlong sentencing hearing focused on Montoya's criminal past. He has nine felony convictions, including
two violent crimes that qualify him as a career criminal. That status, under federal sentencing guidelines, calls for
a sentence of 30 years to life.
Montoya's lawyer, Bobby Duthie, asked Judge Christine Arguello to depart from the guidelines and impose a 15-year
Prosecutor Todd Norvell asked for 30 years.
Mr. Montoya has a violent, violent history," Norvell said. Who's going to be the next victim?"
Arguello, who has been a judge for about a year, said she wrestled with this case like no other.
I have not slept for the last week, trying to figure out what would be just in this case," she said.
She partially granted Duthie's request for a lighter sentence because of Montoya's youth when he committed his
previous crimes, she said. She also ordered Montoya to pay restitution of $4,576 and $4,718 to the Cortez and Durango
Montoya's getaway driver, James C. McBride, pleaded guilty this summer to aiding and abetting a bank robbery. He is
serving a 41-month sentence and is liable for the restitution along with Montoya.
Although nearly all federal defendants strike plea bargains with prosecutors, Montoya went to trial, even though the
evidence against him was overwhelming - eyewitness testimony, his accomplice's testimony, and a search of his house
that yielded bank bags, hypodermic needles and bank robbery notes.
It was Montoya's choice to go to trial, Duthie said. The decision puzzled Arguello.
I'm not sure why you went to trial," Arguello said. Maybe you need to rethink your strategies."
Montoya's mother made a brief plea to Arguello.
Please, don't be so hard on my son," she said. He's the only thing I have right now."
Montoya smiled and waved at his mother on his way out of the courtroom.
I'll call you, OK?" he said.
I love you," she replied, as two U.S. Marshals handcuffed her son and led him away.