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Rodella warrants unsealed, FBI searched for badges and revolver

Updated: 08/26/2014 8:37 PM | Created: 08/26/2014 8:35 PM
By: Blair Miller, KOB.com

ALBUQUERQUE -- A New Mexico District Court judge unsealed search warrants and affidavits related to the federal indictment and subsequent federal search warrant that was served at Rio Arriba Co. Sheriff Tommy Rodella's house.

Search warrants served by the Federal Bureau of Investigation allowed investigators to search Rodella's residence in Espanola, his Jeep in which he allegedly chased Michael Tafoya, his person and any vehicles in the nearby vicinity of his home that belonged to the Sheriff's Office.

An FBI investigator found and recovered four badges, one of which Tafoya alleged Rodella hit him in the face with during the alleged assault that got Rodella indicted earlier this year.

Investigators also recovered a silver revolver with five .38 caliber rounds, which Tafoya alleged he was also threatened with during the altercation.

Other matters that turned up in the search warrant, which could make Rodella's case interesting for prosecutors, include a statement saying Tafoya begged for his life after Rodella pointed the revolver at his head, asking Rodella, "Please don't kill me." According to the warrant, Rodella "repeatedly" responded, "It's too late."

There are also multiple statements that allege Tafoya was not advised of his Constitutional rights when he was searched prior to his arrest, nor when he was placed in a holding cell and subsequently interviewed by Deputy Andy Gutierrez. After being taken to a Rio Arriba County holding facility, he did not see a Magistrate Judge for two days.

The warrant also details portion of the Rio Arriba Sheriff's Office Policies and Procedures Manual. One portion specifically states three separate clauses which Rodella and his son seemingly violated during the incident with Tafoya.

Section IV, B, 9 states that an off-duty officer "may make an arrest, providing…b. The deputy does not use his own personal vehicle to chase or pursue the violator. C. The deputy displays his/her sheriff identification to the violator and announces his/her purpose. D. The deputy can make the arrest without jeopardizing his/her own safety, the safety of the violator, or the safety of the public."

The warrant alleges Rodella broke at least two of these rules when he used his personal Jeep to chase Tafoya, and also failing to identify himself as sheriff.

Rodella and his son are charged with conspiracy against free exercise of civil rights, deprivation of rights and aiding and abetting and falsification of documents. Rodella is also facing a charge of brandishing a firearm.

They each face ten or more years in federal prison if convicted.


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