Former Lincoln County Sheriff Rene Rodriguez now faces six felony charges of sexual contact with a minor, after the state agreed to dismiss a seventh charge during a pretrial conference in Hailey on Monday, saying that the alleged incident occurred outside of the five-year statute of limitations.
Rodriguez, 41, remains charged with 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 allegedly abusing the same child while she was between the ages of 9 to 17 years old.
During the pretrial conference in 5th District Court on Monday, the prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Kristina Schindele, said she would agree to dismiss one of the rape charges, conceding that the alleged incident occurred outside of the five-year statute of limitations tied to the specific rape charge levied against Rodriguez.
According to details revealed during a hearing on Oct. 30, the alleged incidents occurred between 2005 and 2014, in Eden, Idaho; Richfield, Idaho; Twin Falls; and Bellevue.
Those came at the request of Rodriguez’s defense team, Cheri Hicks and Blaine County Chief Public Defender Justin McCarthy, who argued that the indictment didn’t give sufficient detail of each allegation to mount a defense. This is the first jury trial that Blaine County’s new Public Defender’s Office will take on since it began taking cases in October. Prior to the defense office forming, Hicks was Rodriguez’s public defender in the case.
McCarthy also successfully argued at last week’s hearing that the terms “victim” and “public defender” would not be used during the trial to avoid implicit bias by the 13-person jury, which will be composed of 12 jurors and one alternate.
This week, the prosecution made arguments of its own. Schindele said the court should allow evidence of previous crimes, wrongs or other acts in order to lay a foundation of continuous abuse by Rodriguez against the alleged victim.
According to Schindele, the charges only stem from specific incidents that the alleged victim remembers due to their circumstance—either because it was the first instance of a certain type of sexual contact, or because it was around the time of another significant life event. But, the according to the prosecution, there were more.
“This was an everyday occurrence for her,” Schindele said at the Oct. 30 hearing.
That’s not settled yet. Judge Ned Williamson will likely hear Schindele’s argument to include the information during Rodriguez’s next hearing, on Tuesday, Nov. 12.
In addition to the case heading for trial in Blaine County, a separate case against Rodriguez has been filed via a grand jury indictment in Twin Falls. There, the indictment alleges that he abused a 4-year-old female in 1998. In that case, he faces one felony charge of sexual abuse of a minor; a jury trial is scheduled to begin in March.
Rodriguez was arrested on April 5, following a grand jury indictment. He appeared in 5th District Magistrate court three days later, after which Rodriguez resigned from his position as sheriff of Lincoln County via a hand-written letter to the county commissioners.
He had been elected sheriff in 2016 after previously serving as a Shoshone Police Department sergeant and interim chief between 2014 and 2016.
Prior to Shoshone, Rodriguez worked as a detention deputy for the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office between 2004 and 2007, and then as a Bellevue marshal, contracted via the Sheriff’s Office, from 2007 to 2011. On Oct. 1, 2011, Hailey Police Department picked up the contract with the city of Bellevue, at which time Rodriguez continued to work as a marshal until March 29, 2013, when his employment was terminated. Rodriguez had injured himself off the clock, and was on a leave of absence when he requested a longer period of absence for a separate injury, at which time he was let go, according to Hailey Police Department Chief Jeff Gunter.
On Monday, Gunter told the Idaho Mountain Express that he had been in contact with the Attorney General’s Office regarding the Blaine County case, but that there wasn’t anything during Rodriguez’s time with the department that needed disclosure.
“No dirt,” he said, “no nothing.”