U.S. Court of Appeals Affirms Conviction of Former Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas R. Rodella
ALBUQUERQUE—The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has affirmed the conviction of Thomas R. Rodella, 53, the former Rio Arriba County Sheriff, on criminal civil rights and firearms charges.
Rodella was convicted on Sept. 26, 2014, by a jury on a two-count indictment arising out of a March 11, 2014 incident occurring in Rio Arriba County, N.M., during which Rodella engaged in an unjustified high-speed pursuit and unreasonable seizure of a victim. Count 1 of the indictment charged Rodella with violating the victim’s civil rights by subjecting him to an unreasonable seizure while acting under color of law. Count 2 charged him with brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence. Rodella was the Sheriff of Rio Arriba County when the jury returned its guilty verdict. He resigned from his position as Sheriff on Sept. 29, 2014.
The trial evidence established that on March 11, 2014, Rodella and his son Thomas Rodella, Jr., who were in Rodella’s personal vehicle, engaged in an unjustified high-speed pursuit of the victim and used the vehicle to block the victim’s vehicle on a dead-end lane. Rodella, who was not in uniform, jumped out of his vehicle with firearm in hand, entered the victim’s vehicle, and assaulted the victim with the firearm. Rodella, Jr., dragged the victim out of his vehicle and identified the victim’s assailant as the Sheriff. When the victim requested to see Rodella’s badge, Rodella pulled the victim’s head up by his hair and slammed his badge into the victim’s face. The victim suffered injuries to his face and his hand as a result of the assault; the injury to the victim’s hand required surgical repair.
On Jan. 21, 2015, Rodella was sentenced to 37 months in prison for his deprivation of rights conviction and an additional 84 months for brandishing a firearm while committing the civil rights offense, for an aggregate sentence of 121 months of imprisonment. Rodella also was ordered to pay a $200,000.00 fine.
The case was investigated by the Albuquerque and Santa Fe offices of the FBI and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Tara C. Neda and Jeremy Peña. Assistant U.S. Attorney Peña represented the United States on the appeal.