Daniel Sifuentes

Daniel Sifuentes leaves Gallatin County District Court on Monday after pleading guilty to felony obstructing justice.

A Belgrade man pleaded guilty Monday to lying to police to cover for a friend accused of killing a pedestrian while driving drunk in Manhattan.

Daniel Sifuentes, 24, is charged with felony obstructing justice. He appeared in Gallatin County District Court before Judge Rienne McElyea.

Sifuentes was released after the hearing.

Sifuentes was initially charged with obstructing justice and accountability for tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, both felonies. The tampering charge could have carried up to a $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.

As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped the tampering charge. Prosecutors will recommend Sifuentes receive five years at the Montana State Prison, with all that time suspended, at his sentencing on March 27.

Prosecutors will allow Sifuentes to make recommendations for sentencing.

Michael Leo Moreno, a co-defendant in the case, is charged with tampering with evidence, vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol and failure to remain or stop at a crash scene, all felonies. He pleaded not guilty to the charges in Gallatin County District Court last fall.

In October, Moreno hit 76-year-old Truman Emmelkamp of Manhattan with his car and left Emmelkamp on Stagecoach Trail Road, according to charging documents. Emmelkamp died at the scene.

Police said in charging documents that Sifuentes and Moreno admitted they were in the car that hit Emmelkamp and later stashed it at a storage unit before walking to Moreno’s home. The two also admitted making up a story about being robbed at gunpoint to cover up the incident, court documents say.

In court on Monday, Sifuentes admitted he collaborated with Moreno “to create a false story” about the incident. He told Judge McElyea that he later lied to law enforcement about being in the car that hit Emmelkamp.

“I knew that the driver had been driving the vehicle that had struck the pedestrian,” he said.

Freddy Monares can be reached at fmonares@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2630.

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