Lawyer: Force was ‘legally justified’

Man in road rage incident due for arraignment on March 22

NASHUA – Ricardo Montanez, the Hudson man charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly pushing a woman into a snowbank during a driving-related confrontation in Nashua last month, said he was “legally justified” in doing so because she allegedly banged on his car, tried to open his door and “seemed fixated on escalating the already tense situation.”

“Any force utilized by Mr. Montanez was legally justified,” his lawyer, Nashua Attorney Joseph Fricano, wrote in a five-page brief he filed this week in Nashua district court.

Montanez felt it was necessary to use “non-deadly force” out of concerns “that he was being confronted by a person who had (allegedly) hit his vehicle, had displayed overtly aggressive behavior … despite his efforts to end the confrontation” by getting back in his car, according to Fricano’s filing.

The final moments of the rolling confrontation between Montanez, 28, of 54A Ledge Road, Hudson, and Lisa Caruso, 40, whose address is unknown, were captured on cellphone video that went viral in the hours and days following the Feb. 18 incident at Amherst Street and Henri Burque Highway.

The video, recorded by Jennifer Needham, shows Caruso exiting her vehicle and walking up to the driver’s door of Montanez’s car. It appears she is talking, and a moment later Montanez gets out of his car and pushes her, at which time she falls backward onto a snow-covered median on Amherst Street.

The next day, police investigating the incident charged Montanez with the single count of simple assault, a Class A misdemeanor. He was booked and later released on $5,000 personal recognizance bail pending arraignment, which is scheduled for Thursday, March 22, in Nashua district court.

A pre-trial hearing has been scheduled for May 16 in the Nashua court.

Fricano’s brief, meanwhile, includes a notice of self-defense and a motion for a so-called Richards hearing, the latter an indication that Fricano is advising the court that if Caruso were to testify “consistently” to the defense’s allegations, “she would potentially be admitting to elements of offenses for which she could be charged,” Fricano said.

His motion, therefore, suggests to the court that Caruso either hire, or be assigned, a lawyer to help her decide whether to invoke her right to remain silent, he added.

According to Montanez’s account of the sequence of events, as outlined in Fricano’s brief, Montanez was stopped behind Caruso’s vehicle at the intersection of Amherst and Broad streets. When the light turned green, Caruso’s vehicle “remained stationary, (and) the operator appeared distracted while talking on her cellphone,” according to Montanez’s observations.

Montanez said when he blew his horn, the vehicle drove off, but the driver allegedly traveled “at an excessively slow speed while the operator displayed vulgar finger gestures.”

Where Amherst Street becomes four lanes, Montanez passed Caruso, then stopped at a red light at Amherst and Henri Burque. She pulled up behind him and, according to the statement, “began to honk her horn excessively.”

Montanez said he got out of his car, “beckoned towards” Caruso, who “responded with racial vulgarities.” While “she was yelling at Montanez … Caruso allowed her car to hit” Montanez’s vehicle, the documents state.

According to one of the witnesses, Montanez was back in his car when Caruso allegedly “got out of her vehicle … banged on his car” then allegedly banged on his window “and tried to open the driver’s door.”

At that point, according to the brief, Montanez’s concerns over allegedly being confronted by Caruso prompted him to push her, using “non-deadly force” for which he “was legally justified,” the documents state.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.