Dover man cleared in weapons case

 

DOVER — A Dover man considered himself extremely lucky after a not guilty finding in a weapons case against him that threatened to imprison him for life.

That was Isaac W. Montague’s reaction on Monday after he was cleared in Kent County Superior Court, his attorney said.

Isaac W. Montague

Isaac W. Montague

“After the verdict Mr. Montague just kept on repeating that it was a ‘miracle that he is a free man …’ “ according to his representative Andre’ Beauregard.

Concluding a non-jury bench trial, Resident Judge William L. Witham Jr. reasoned that Mr. Montague was not proven to be linked to five firearms hidden throughout a residence that he occasionally visited in the 400 block of New Castle Avenue. He was arrested on July 16, 2015, after investigation into alleged gang, drug and gun activity in the Capital Green Development.

“It is conceivable that Montague may have been aware that the firearms were hidden throughout the residence even if they were placed there by some other person,” Judge Witham wrote in an opinion.

“Nonetheless, knowing that firearms were present does not establish guilt. The state must prove intent.

“The state believes Montague was aware that firearms were stored in the residence, and asks the court to infer that because Montague was thus aware, he must have intent. The court refuses to stretch the inferential chain to such an extreme.”

Thus, Mr. Montague was found not guilty of all five counts of possession of a deadly weapon by a person prohibited against him. He was 27 years old at the time of his arrest and a bench trial was held on April 19.

Any felony conviction could have landed Mr. Montague in prison for the rest of his life, Mr. Beauregard said.

”Even after practicing law for 30 years, wonders never stop amazing me that the court will adhere to the burden of proof that the state must prove each and every element of an offense beyond a reasonable doubt,” Mr. Beauregard said.

“Mr Montague is a free man today because of that age old standard.“

Citing five documents located in the residence as evidence addressed to him, the state attempted to show that Mr. Montague lived at the New Castle Avenue residence, according to Judge Witham. Thus, the State asked the court to infer that:

•Montague could not live in such a small residence and not be aware that so many firearms were hidden within

•If Montague knew where the firearms were hidden in the residence, then he would have the dominion and control over them

•If Montague had knowledge and control, then he also must have had intent to exercise control.

Also, Judge Witham maintained that “At no time did the state introduce evidence that it was Montague who placed the guns in the residence.

“There was no testimony by anyone who had seen Montague handle the firearms. There was no DNA or fingerprint evidence linking the firearms to Montague. There is no circumstantial evidence linking the firearms to Montague …”

Authorities executed a search warrant at the New Castle Avenue residence after surveillance between May and July 2015. Typically two to three surveillances a week were conducted, typically between five and 30 minutes and between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., according to evidence presented at trial. A Dover Police Department detective “observed Mr. Montague at the residence on numerous occasions,” according to court documents; the residence was estimated to be no larger that 800 square feet.

Various types of ammunition were also located during the search warrant execution.

Deputy Attorney General Zach George prosecuted the case for the state.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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