Daniel Sifuentes

Daniel Sifuentes, 23, appears via video Monday in Gallatin County Justice Court.

A Belgrade man pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he lied to law enforcement to cover for a friend accused of killing a pedestrian while driving drunk.

Daniel Sifuentes, 23, is charged with obstructing justice and accountability for tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, both felonies. He appeared in Gallatin County District Court before Judge Rienne McElyea.

Sifuentes has posted $25,000 bail.

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. The 35-year-old pleaded not guilty in October in Gallatin County District Court.

Moreno has been held at the Gallatin County jail on $100,000 bail since Oct. 6.

In October, a driver going west on Stagecoach Trail Road hit 76-year-old Truman Emmelkamp of Manhattan, according to the Montana Highway Patrol. Emmelkamp died at the scene.

Police said in charging documents that Moreno and Sifuentes later reported that a hitchhiker held a gun to Moreno’s head and stole their car. Deputies went to Moreno’s home to get a statement regarding the robbery.

Moreno and Sifuentes told officers that a blond man wearing camouflage clothing robbed them at gunpoint. Moreno eventually admitted he was driving the car that hit Emmelkamp, that he was drunk at the time and that Sifuentes was in the car when it happened, police said in charging documents.

Moreno and Sifuentes were taken to the Gallatin County jail.

The next day, Sifuentes spoke with detectives investigating the case.

Police said in charging documents that Sifuentes admitted he and Moreno were drinking at a Bozeman bar. Sifuentes said they also smoked marijuana at a friend’s house before going to the bar. They then left the friend’s house.

Sifuentes said he woke up in the car’s passenger seat and saw a man in front of the car. After the crash, Sifuentes said, they removed beer cans from the car, ripped off the damaged windshield and stashed the car at a storage unit before walking to Moreno’s home, court documents allege.

Police said in charging documents that Sifuentes admitted lying to law enforcement about the incident. Sifuentes said he and Moreno fabricated the story to cover up hitting the man, court documents allege.

If convicted, Sifuentes could face up to 20 years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine.

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

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