By Alan Sorensen
Twelfth Judicial District Court Judge John Warner gave Lionel James Demontiney's lawyers an extra week Friday to prepare their defense in his murder case.
Warner rescheduled the start of the trial from May 22 to 9 a.m. May 29. Demontiney, 17, Rocky Boy, pleaded innocent earlier to the deliberate homicide charge in connection with the shooting death of his cousin, Bryan Gopher, also of Rocky Boy.
Demontiney's defense team, Carl White and Jeremy Yellin, are reportedly planning to argue that Demontiney used justifiable force in his own defense in shooting Gopher.
Prosecuting attorneys are Deputy Hill County Attorney Cyndee Faus and Montana Special Attorney General John P. Connor Jr.
Gopher, 24, was shot once in the chest outside the back entrance to the Havre Holiday Village Shopping Center on Nov. 22, 2000.
The police report filed with the charge against Demontiney said that two women discovered Gopher's body when they went behind the mall to relieve themselves. They then drove around to the front of the mall and told two men inside the Gallery Lounge about the body. An ambulance was called shortly after midnight Nov. 23 and Gopher was pronounced dead.
About an hour later, police were notified that the suspected shooter was at his mother's home at Rocky Boy. Demontiney was arrested a short time later.
An alcohol breath test administered shortly before 6 a.m. in Havre reportedly showed no alcohol in his system.
According to court documents, Demontiney and another cousin told police that they drove into Havre and were drinking in a couple of different places during the day with Gopher. They reportedly pulled into the parking lot behind the mall to relieve themselves and an argument between Demontiney and Gopher escalated. Demontiney reportedly had been scolding Gopher for letting his girlfriend boss him around too much.
Gopher allegedly pulled a a 9mm handgun from the waistband of his pants and pointed it at Demontiney during the argument. Investigators said that Demontiney told them he wrestled Gopher for the gun and it went off once into the air. He succeeded in getting the gun from Gopher and put it on the seat of the pickup.
When Gopher struck him in the face, Demontiney reportedly told police, he picked the gun up again. He said he moved another bullet into the chamber and the gun discharged. The bullet struck Gopher on the side and traveled through his chest.
The next day, an officer found a full metal jacket bullet believed to have been the bullet that went through Gopher. It was found in the back entryway to the mall.
Judge Warner gave the defense until April 13 to present its list of witnesses and the prosecution until April 30 to present its list. He set May 11 as the date for hearing motions.
Demontiney is under house arrested at his home in Rocky Boy. He will be tried as an adult.
If convicted, he could be sentenced to either life in prison or between 10 and 100 years in prison. He also faces a $20 prosecution fee, $10 domestic violence fee and $5 surcharge.
The trial is expected to last no longer than four days.