Jamestown man avoids murder trial through plea agreement

A Jamestown man who had been facing murder charges has plead guilty to a lesser charge.

Julio Montanez appeared in Chautauqua County Court on Monday for a pretrial conference regarding a trial that was to begin Oct. 4.

He pleaded guilty to a charge of criminally negligent homicide, a class E non-violent felony. Montanez is now scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 1 by Judge David Foley. Criminally negligent homicide carries a sentence of up to four years in prison and can also include a fine.

Montanez had been indicted on charges of second-degree murder and two counts of second-degree attempted murder in the death of Justin Gibbons, 28, who was killed around 1 a.m. Oct. 6, 2019, in Sherman during a reported drug transaction.

A previous three-count indictment against Montanez was dismissed by County Court Judge David Foley in October 2020 for errors made during grand jury questioning. Montanez was then re-indicted. The minimum sentence for second-degree murder is 15 to 40 years in prison.

According to the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office, Gibbons was shot multiple times in the area of 114 W. Main St. in Sherman. The Mayville man was taken by ambulance to Westfield Memorial Hospital but later pronounced dead.

According to investigators, Montanez met with a group Oct. 6, 2019, in the parking lot of a Sherman bar to arrange a narcotics deal. During the transaction, Gibbons and another person allegedly began to strike and kick Montanez. At one point, Montanez retrieved a gun and fired several rounds into a vehicle occupied by Gibbons and two other people. One bullet struck the driver’s side door and several other rounds struck the back of the vehicle.

Following the shooting, the vehicle went off the road and came to a stop near the bar. Gibbons, who was struck by two bullets, was transported to Westfield Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Prosecutors had asserted Montanez fired into the vehicle as it was driving away.

“There were a number of mitigating circumstances which justified a plea bargain to the reduced non-violent felony and the defense is very happy with the outcome of the plea,” said Nathaniel Barone, county public defender who represented Montanez in the case.

The case was prosecuted by the Cattaraugus County special prosecutor.


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