Photos of damaged vehicles allowed in freeway shooting trial

jsowell@idahostatesman.comJuly 12, 2014 Updated 23 hours ago

The lawyer for Lajai Jamar Pridgette, 29, argued unsuccessfully that photographs of the shattered windows of a Chevrolet Impala and bullet holes in a Toyota pickup were irrelevant and would be prejudicial toward his client.

Pridgette, a resident of Sacramento, Calif., was arrested Oct. 30 after allegedly shooting at the Impala on Interstate 84 in east Boise and a half hour later at the pickup near Hammett. He was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon, transportation of a stolen car, possession of a credit card manufacturing machine and counterfeit credit cards.

He is scheduled to go on trial Monday in U.S. District Court in Boise.

Dennis Benjamin, Pridgette's attorney, wrote in a motion that his client is only charged with unlawful possession of a 9mm Smith & Wesson pistol, not aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

"Showing the jury multiple photos of the shattered windows is both unfairly prejudicial and the needless presentation of cumulative evidence and thus inadmissible," Benjamin wrote. "Mr. Pridgette objects on the same basis as above to the seven photographs of the bullet hole and bullet path in the Toyota truck."

District Judge Edward J. Lodge disagreed, saying that evidence that Pridgette fired the gun is relevant to show he possessed the gun.

"As to the evidence and testimony regarding the defendant having fired a gun at two separate vehicles prior to his arrest, the court finds this evidence is inexorably intertwined with the crimes charged against the Defendant such that it will likely be admissible at trial," Lodge wrote in a pre-trial order issued Thursday.

Prosecutors will have to demonstrate each of the photos is relevant when they are introduced. He said he might limit the number of photographs so they don't unfairly influence the jury.

He was not charged in the shootings themselves, prosecutors previously wrote in court documents, because there was no federal jurisdiction for those crimes. New charges could be filed in state court after the federal cases conclude.

Pridgette was able to prevent evidence of marijuana and other drugs found in the stolen rental car he was in from being introduced at trial. Lodge ruled that such evidence was inadmissible because Pridgette wasn't charged with any drug offenses and the presence of drugs was not tied to the charges in the case.

Esteban Montano and two business associates were driving east on I-84 between the Boise Airport exit and Broadway Avenue on Oct. 30 when their car came alongside a 2013 Ford Mustang driven by Pridgette. Montano told police he looked at the driver and saw Pridgette glaring at him.

The Mustang, which had been on Montano's right, changed lanes and came up on him on the left. Moments later, a shot rang out, shattering the rear windows of Montano's 2013 Impala, according to a second court document.

Montano was struck in the face and mouth by glass shards.

The Mustang sped off. An hour later, Andrew Coe was returning from a hunting trip in a 1995 Toyota pickup and was going down a long grade before Hammett when he saw a car speeding toward him. The Mustang slowed down when it came alongside Coe's pickup and the driver shot through an open passenger side window toward him.

Coe pulled over as the Mustang sped off and found a bullet hole near his left door post.

ISP Trooper Amanda Hansen spotted the Mustang about a half-hour later on the freeway east of Tuttle. She followed the car, which left the freeway at Wendell and pulled into a convenience store. Pridgette was apprehended without incident as he exited the store.

Along with the gun, police found a credit card embosser, a computer and 59 counterfeit credit cards in the names of Pridgette and two other people. A sock found in the car contained $3,100 in cash.

The car was rented by Pridgette in Anaheim, Calif., using a counterfeit credit card. When the Mustang wasn't returned, the rental company reported the car stolen.

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