A jury trial in the case of former Lincoln County Sheriff Rene Rodriguez started Tuesday in 5th District Court in Hailey, with the selection of the jury. Rodriguez, 41, is a former Blaine County Sheriff’s Office deputy charged with six sexual-related felonies on a minor.
The six counts against Rodriguez are 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 9 and 17. Rodriguez also faces charges for a separate Twin Falls case alleging the same type of conduct on a different alleged victim.
Jury selection began with a pool of about 80 potential jurors. Present were Judge Ned C. Williamson, defense attorney Cheri Hicks, Blaine County Chief Public Defender Justin McCarthy, state lead prosecutor Kristina Schindele and state attorney David Morse. This is the first jury trial with Blaine County’s new Public Defender’s Office since it began taking cases in October.
A “motion in limine” was heard in 5th District Court on Nov. 12 to determine whether certain testimony would be allowed in the case. The prosecution argued to allow evidence that it said would depict a pattern or plan that the defendant had in allegedly abusing the alleged victim. The state moved to admit evidence of a phone call between the alleged victim’s brother and the alleged victim that reportedly disclosed information that their mutual sister was “sleeping with” the defendant. The judge ruled that the evidence is admissible.
Defense attorney Hicks argued that the evidence amounted to hearsay, that no clear statement was made about someone being molested and that the phone call is speculation and increases prejudice.
The judge ruled that the motion be limited to the call from the alleged victim’s brother regarding the alleged act that the victim’s sister was “sleeping with” the defendant. Jurors will be given limited instructions that the report from the brother is used only to explain why the alleged victim reported when she did, not for the validity of the statement.
The jury trial is expected to last through the end of the week and possibly go into Monday, Nov 25.