A redacted version of an indictment filed with the Blaine County courthouse on April 5 sheds more light on how charges were brought forward against a former Lincoln County sheriff who now faces multiple felony charges and could face life in prison if convicted.
According to the indictment, a grand jury was assembled in Blaine County on April 5 and four witnesses were examined. At the conclusion of the hearing, the jury accused Rene Rodriguez, 40, of Shoshone, of seven felonies.
A former Blaine County deputy, Rodriguez faces one count of sexual abuse of a minor under 16, four counts of lewd conduct with a minor under 16 and two counts of rape.
Three of the four counts of lewd conduct with a minor under 16 are alleged to have occurred in Blaine County. The other charges are alleged to have occurred in Jerome, Twin Falls and Lincoln counties.
The first charge, sexual abuse of a minor, is alleged to have occurred between Aug. 12, 2005, and Aug. 11, 2006, when the alleged victim was 9. The charges of lewd conduct of a minor under 16 are alleged to have occurred when the alleged victim was 11, 12 and 13 years old. The two rape charges are alleged to have occurred when the alleged victim was 17.
Rodriguez was booked into the Blaine County jail on April 5. He had an initial appearance in front of Blaine County Magistrate Judge Jennifer Haemmerle on April 8, during which the maximum penalties for each charge were stated. If convicted of the two charges of rape and the four counts of lewd conduct, Rodriguez could face multiple life sentences.
Rodriguez was elected sheriff of Lincoln County in 2016. In February, he requested a paid leave of absence from his position, and that was request was granted by the county commissioners. A second leave of absence was requested by Twin Falls defense attorney Michael Jay Wood on behalf of Rodriguez at the Lincoln County commissioners meeting on March 4. A leave of absence without pay was granted by the commissioners at that time, with commissioners telling the Idaho Mountain Express on March 14 that they did not know why the leave of absence was requested.
A handwritten letter of resignation from Rodriguez, dated April 8, was submitted to the commissioners on that day and read into the record. The commissioners formally accepted Rodriguez’s resignation and immediately sent a letter to the Lincoln County Republican Central Committee to ask for three names for the commission to choose a new sheriff from. The entire process should take no more than 30 days. Undersheriff Steve Phillips has been serving as sheriff since Feb. 4, when Rodriguez first requested a leave of absence.
Rodriguez is scheduled for an arraignment in front of Blaine County 5th District Judge Ned Williamson on Monday.