The four-day trial of former Lincoln County Sheriff Rene Rodriguez concluded late Friday night in Hailey when a 12-person jury convicted him on all of six sex-related felony charges.
Rodriguez will remain in the Blaine County jail until a sentencing hearing scheduled for March 20.
Rodriguez, 41, was convicted of four counts of lewd conduct with a minor under 16, one count of sexual abuse of a minor under 16 and one count of rape for abusing his adopted daughter when she was between the ages of 9 and 17. If sentenced to the maximum, Rodriguez could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Blaine County Chief Public Defender Justin McCarthy, who helped with the defense, said Monday that an appeal is “very likely.” However, he said, the defense must wait until after sentencing to file that.
“We’ll be reviewing the record for appeal,” he said.
In addition, he noted his satisfaction with Public Defender’s Office attorney Cheri Hicks, who acted as lead defense attorney throughout the case while McCarthy served as second chair. Hicks had initially been assigned the case when she was a contracted public defender, before the Public Defender’s Office was formed.
“I’m very proud of her and my team,” McCarthy said.
Charges were brought forward by the Idaho Attorney General’s Office in April following an investigation into Rodriguez that began in January when the victim came forward with the allegations. According to court testimony from the victim, she did so after being told by another family member that her little sister, 12, was sleeping in the same bed as Rodriguez.
However, this wasn’t the first time that she had reported allegations of sexual abuse.
According to testimony in 5th District Court, the victim, now 23, told her mother, Kristina Rodriguez, of an incident of inappropriate touching when she was 9, but her mother did not believe her. Another witness, Jaime Williamson, a family friend, described her mother’s relationship with Rodriguez as “obsessive,” and that “she always wanted to be around him.”
The indictment and subsequent trial highlighted six separate instances between 2005 and 2014 during which the victim was sexually abused by Rodriguez in multiple different homes that they lived in throughout that time period. Some incidents occurred in Bellevue, while Rodriguez was serving as a deputy for the city under a contract with the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office followed by a contract with the Hailey Police Department between 2007 and 2013. Following his tenure in Blaine County, Rodriguez began working for the Shoshone Police Department and was elected sheriff of Lincoln County in 2016—a position from which he resigned following his arrest in April.
During her testimony, the victim initially described a normal childhood with Rodriguez, who formally adopted her when he and her mother got married in 2000. Then, between 2005 and 2006, when the family was living in Eden, Idaho, the first sexual encounter occurred when Rodriguez walked into the bathroom after she had showered and began to touch her inappropriately, she testified.
“I wasn’t completely sure this was how a father and daughter had contact with each other,” the victim told the jury.
The victim went on to describe five other sexual encounters, including the last incident, rape, that occurred just a month before her high school graduation in 2014.
Rodriguez took the stand over a two-day period on Thursday and Friday, telling the jury that the charges were fabricated by the victim and her mother because of a contentious custody battle that is playing out between the victim and her 2-year-old son’s father, who Rodriguez believes should have full custody. During her closing argument to the jury, Hicks hammered that point.
“She’s been trying to keep her son away from his biological father. If she will take those steps in that custody case, what’s to prevent her from doing whatever she could do so that Mr. Rodriguez could not testify against her?” Hicks asked. “He’s chosen to tell his side of the story.”
Hicks also highlighted a discrepancy in the victim’s testimony to the grand jury back in April, during which the victim described Rodriguez’s genitals. On Friday, Hicks presented a photo of Rodriguez’s genitals that did not match the given description. In addition, Hicks called the victim’s accusations “bare-bones” and told the jury that her report of the abuse changed at least three times between her original report to the Twin Falls Police Department and the two times that she was interviewed by the investigator with the Attorney General’s Office.
Rodriguez also faces a separate felony case in Twin Falls County, where he was indicted by a grand jury on Oct. 9 on one charge of sexual abuse of a minor under 16 that allegedly occurred in 1998 when the alleged victim was 4. A pretrial conference in that case is scheduled for Feb. 14 and a jury trial for March 3.