Former Lincoln County Sheriff Rene Rodriguez was sentenced Thursday to a minimum of 14 years in prison following a jury conviction on six felony charges of sexual abuse in November.
Rodriguez, 41, faces an indeterminate sentence of 28 years of incarceration if he is not approved for parole after the mandatory 14 years are served.
Fifth District Judge Ned Williamson, who oversaw the Blaine County trial as well as a separate trial in Twin Falls County that also alleged sexual misconduct with a minor, said he spent a significant amount of time reflecting on this case and the punishment that should be imposed.
In January 2019, the Idaho Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into Rodriguez when the victim, Rodriguez’s stepdaughter, came forward with the allegations. The victim told authorities that she was sexually abused by Rodriguez, her adopted father, between the ages of 9 and 17.
During a four-day jury trial in November, the victim testified and gave details of each of the incidents on which charges in the case were based. The severity of each encounter escalated over the years, until Rodriguez raped his stepdaughter one month before she was to graduate from high school.
The indictment and subsequent trial highlighted six instances between 2005 and 2014 during which Rodriguez sexually abused the victim. The abuses took place in multiple homes that the family 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. He resigned from that position following his arrest in April 2019.
During the sentencing hearing Thursday morning, Rodriguez told the court that the last six months, served in solitary confinement at the Blaine County jail, afforded him an opportunity for growth, reading three to four books a day, exercising daily and learning mediation.
“The time has allowed me to work on myself,” he said.
Addressing his stepdaughter, Rodriguez said he hoped she would be able to recover from this experience.
“I truly pray that she may be able to work through any issues,” he said.
During her victim impact statement, the victim told the court that she has been diagnosed with PTSD and depression due to the trauma that she endured as a child.
“This has impacted me in more ways than one,” she said.
The victim said she faces trouble in relationships and has a tainted perception of love. She said this experience continues to impact her daily life as she fears leaving her home, has an estranged relationship with her siblings and continues to struggle with thoughts of self-harm.
Though the prosecution admitted there were some discrepancies in the victim’s testimony during the four-day trial, the jury convicted Rodriguez on all six felony counts—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.
“[The victim] did the best that she could to explain to the jury what happened to her,” Deputy Attorney General Kristina Schindele, who led the state’s prosecution, told the court.