Las Vegas Sun

April 19, 2014

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Grand jury considering case of fatal CHP officer crash

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Metro Police

Jesus Magdaleno, an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer, and Felix Cruz are shown waving their arms in the back of a pickup that police say was stolen from the valet area of the Flamingo on Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013. The men suffered fatal injuries when the truck crashed into an SUV at Flamingo Road and Valley View Boulevard.

Click to enlarge photo

An undated photo provided by the California Highway Patrol, shows CHP Officer Jesus Magdaleno Jr., 33, an 8-year-veteran.

A new preliminary hearing date has been set for a man charged in the deaths of a California Highway Patrol officer and another man thrown from the back of a pickup truck reported stolen from a Strip hotel.

But it’s possible a grand jury could take action in the case of James Montgomery, 29, of Tustin, Calif., before the hearing.

In Las Vegas Township Justice Court today, Judge Cynthia Cruz set the preliminary hearing for Dec. 16. But the defense has been served notice that a grand jury is considering the case, she said.

If Montgomery were to be indicted by the grand jury, his case would go directly to Clark County District Court for trial.

Montgomery is charged with murder, kidnapping, grand-theft auto, burglary, robbery and driving under the influence in the Aug. 18 incident that left California Highway Patrol Officer Jesus Manuel Magdaleno Jr. and Felix Brandon Cruz III dead.

Montgomery’s attorneys waived their client’s right to a speedy trial in August after charges were added alleging that Montgomery was drunk at the time of the incident.

Michael Becker, an attorney for Montgomery, has said Montgomery, a Whole Foods employee, may have been drugged.

In Montgomery’s arrest report, Metro Police reported this sequence of events:

Magdaleno and Cruz, in Las Vegas for Magdaleno’s bachelor party, were loading luggage into the CHP patrolman’s truck at the Flamingo on Aug. 18 when Montgomery got behind the wheel and drove off.

Magdaleno ran after the truck and jumped in the cargo bed with Cruz, but Montgomery continued driving.

Montgomery sped through three red lights before smashing into an SUV in front of the Rio. The impact threw Magdaleno and Cruz from the bed of the pickup.

Magdaleno died at the scene; Cruz died days later after being transported to University Medical Center.

According to prosecutors, Montgomery’s blood alcohol level was .197 percent, more than twice the legal limit, at the time of the wreck.

Montgomery doesn’t have a violent past, Becker has said, noting that the incident had shocked those close to Montgomery. Montgomery was in Las Vegas on a spontaneous vacation with his girlfriend.

Montgomery remains in the Clark County Detention Center without bail.

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