A Missoula jury went into deliberations on Thursday morning to decide on domestic abuse charges leveled against Felipe “Fel” Torres, the former drummer of The Cold Hard Cash Show.
The jury was still in deliberations early the same evening weighing three charges in Missoula County District Court: two counts of misdemeanor assault and a felony strangulation. The prosecution alleges Torres' former girlfriend was assaulted in January and again in July, and that Torres, 44, strangled her on July 13 in a fit of rage because she was trying to leave him.
The defense has underscored the woman’s methamphetamine use at the time, as well as her mental health disorders, which bring on psychotic episodes in questioning her credibility.
“The prosecution has brought in a witness who has struggles, and everybody does,” public defender Robin Hammond told the jury in closing arguments. “But they have the problem of the unreliable narrator.”
It was because of her drug use and disorder that Torres was only a concerned boyfriend, he testified extensively on Wednesday. Hammond argued that Torres was never afforded the presumption of innocence that would have made room in investigators’ minds that he was only concerned for his girlfriend’s well-being.
“That can’t be interpreted as concern, because there’s allegations of domestic violence?” she asked the jury. “That’s not right.”
Missoula County Attorney Kirsten Pabst told jurors in her closing arguments that Torres was merely shifting blame to others.
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“It’s a bottomless bag of red herrings,” Pabst said.
Pabst offered to jurors text messages between Torres and the woman, during which she tells him she is scared of him, but he refuses to leave her be. The night before the January incident, the woman had left the house to stay with a friend’s parents because she was concerned for her safety, she testified on Tuesday. When he persisted in texting her to find out where she was, she responded, “you scare me.” But he was already waiting for her at her workplace. “I’m waiting,” he texted back.
Torres said he was worried the woman’s drug abuse was kicking up again, and he was also concerned she may have slipped into a psychotic episode. The woman had testified about her past drug use, but said she was not amid an episode when Torres tried dragging her from her friend’s car.
“She (the woman) was willing to admit she had shortcomings,” Pabst told the jury. “We all deserve the protections of the law, not just people who we think are like us.”
Torres’ troubling past allegations of domestic violence crept into this trial, as well, on Wednesday with the testimony of his former girlfriend from 2014, who said he tried suffocating her with a blanket while they were at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. This woman’s testimony spoke to a longer pattern of domestic violence allegations than that which has been presented at trial. In January, after the initial charge, an anonymous document began circulating on social media about past abuses alleged of Torres.
Torres testified on Wednesday that document, his charge and the community response in asking venues to reconsider booking the Cold Hard Cash Show, a Johnny Cash cover band, had torn down his life and career.
The Missoulian is choosing not to name the woman and principal witness because she is an alleged victim of a violent crime.