Tommy Rodella to remain Rio Arriba Co. sheriff, but can't carry weapon

Updated: 08/15/2014 5:00 PM | Created: 08/15/2014 10:38 AM
By: Elizabeth Reed,

Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella will remain sheriff but will not be allowed to carry a weapon as part of the stipulation of his release. Rodella and his son were released from federal custody Friday.

The men's attorneys, Bob Gorence and Jason Bowles, said they were "happy" with their clients' release.

The arrests of Rodella and his son stem from a federal indictment charging both men with using Rodella's law enforcement position to injure, threaten, intimidate and falsely charge a man with a crime earlier this year.

Read: Federal Indictment

The indictment alleges Rodella and his son pursued a man in their personal Jeep, pulled him out of his car and threatened him with a handgun in March. The man, Michael Tafoya, told KOB in June that the incident began when Rodella somehow became angry about the way Tafoya was driving.

Tafoya said he begged Rodella not to shoot him and did not realize he was the sheriff.

The indictment claims that Tommy Rodella, Jr. then dragged Tafoya onto the ground and told him, "don't you know that is the sheriff?" When Tafoya asked to see his badge, the sheriff allegedly pulled him up by the hair and slammed the badge into his face, saying "You want to see my badge? Here's my badge mother (expletive)."

Rodella instructed deputies to arrest Tafoya on grounds of aggravated assault on a peace officer. In his report, Rodella wrote that Tafoya was speeding at a high rate of speed and accelerated toward him. He wrote, "I was concerned for my life and the lives of others as the driver had made more than one attempt to run me over."

After Tafoya bonded out of jail, he called the FBI and reported the incident.

Both men 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.

Rodella and his son each face 10 or more years in federal prison if convicted.

"The FBI wants to make it clear that no one is above the law, regardless of the uniform or badge you wear," FBI spokeswoman Carol Lee said during a press conference Friday morning. "Those charged with upholding the law will be held accountable. Today's arrest serves notice to those who would abuse their office and violate the public's trust."

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