Former Lincoln County Sheriff Rene Rodriguez entered a plea of not guilty Monday during an arraignment in 5th District Court in Hailey on seven felony sex-crime charges. Rodriguez is now scheduled for a pretrial conference on July 22, ahead of a jury trial currently scheduled for August.
During the hearing Monday, Rodriguez’s defense attorney, Cheri Hicks, requested that the trial date be set far out to give time for a lengthy investigation into the charges along with possible motions to be filed.
The seven charges allege that between 2005 and 2014, Rodriguez sexually abused the same victim in multiple counties, including Blaine.
Rodriguez resigned earlier this month.
Farther south on Monday, Lincoln County commissioners held interviews for three nominees for sheriff—Verlon Southwick, Rene King and Scott Denning—submitted by the Lincoln County Republican Central Committee on April 18. In a letter addressed to the committee dated April 26, the commissioners had initially argued that “some serious ethical problems have come to our attention. … [I]t is very important in making our decision to humbly request one additional name at this time.”
Commissioner Rebecca Woods told the Twin Falls Times-News that at least one of the candidates was under investigation by Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training. Another, Denning, has sued the Sheriff’s Office, claiming he was wrongfully terminated in 2017.
The committee responded that same day with a letter stating that the three candidates submitted “are all qualified under the laws of the State of Idaho.”
During the interviews Monday, which were open to the public, each candidate was asked roughly 20 questions, ranging from how he would improve the public’s perception of the Sheriff’s Office to how many miles are considered too many on a patrol vehicle. Members of the audience, about 20, were not allowed to voice their own comments during the interviews.
Ultimately, the com-missioners chose former sheriff’s Deputy Rene King as Lincoln County’s next sheriff. At the conclusion of the commissioners’ questions, King asked if he could clear up some rumors about himself. He said he had never been fired by Lincoln County and that he had left in good standing.
King was a deputy for the county for nearly four years before leaving to become a deputy for Gooding County, where he’s been for the last two and a half years. He said he would work to restore trust between the community and the Sheriff’s Office and that he would not be able to determine whether, or if, the Sheriff’s Office needed significant changes until he took a closer look.
“There might not need to be a change in the Sheriff’s Office,”