A former Lincoln County sheriff “completely disputes” seven felony charges that allege he sexually abused a girl from the time she was 9 to when she was 17, his defense attorney said on his behalf Monday.
At an arraignment hearing in 5th District Court in Hailey, former Sheriff Rene Rodriguez sat alongside his pubic defender, who asked that the arraignment be continued to another date to allow her to prepare for the case properly before entering a plea.
Attorney Cheri Hicks was assigned to the case just minutes before the arraignment was scheduled to begin, after the court was alerted by the defendant that he was not able to retain private counsel. Rodriguez, 40, of Shoshone, told the court that he and his family could not come up with the funds to hire a private attorney and requested that a public defender be assigned to his case.
Once assigned, Hicks immediately asked for a reduction in bond, arguing that Rodriguez has strong ties to the community and family members with whom he could live if he is released from jail, and that he has no intentions of fleeing. Fifth District Judge Ned Williamson agreed to reduce the bond from $500,000 to $100,000 after asking Rodriguez if he had known that he was under investigation prior to a grand jury hearing. Rodriguez said he had known since Jan. 29. Williamson reduced the bond but left it high, saying the “amount was appropriate given the circumstances in this case” and the very serious charges being alleged, but that he also recognized that Rodriguez’s financial situation was “bleak.”
As of Tuesday, Rodriguez was still in custody at the Blaine County Correctional Facility in Hailey, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Rodriguez resigned from his position as sheriff of Lincoln County on April 8 and had been on an unpaid leave of absence since March 4.
The charges allege that between Aug. 12, 2005, and Aug. 11, 2014, Rodriguez sexually abused the same victim in multiple counties, including Blaine. 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 with a 16- or 17-year-old by a man at least three years older. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison.
Rodriguez is scheduled for a continued arraignment hearing on April 29.