Thomas Rodella Was Convicted of Brandishing a Firearm and Violing a Motorist’s Civil Rights
On September 9, 2014, a grand jury issued two counts against Rodella for violating Tafoya’s civil rights. One count charged Rodella with depriving her of her civil rights; while count two charged him with brandishing firearms.
During cross-examination, the United States referenced medical records from Veterans Administration Hospital; Rodella countered by suggesting they undermine his credibility.
Early Life and Education
Thomas Rodella grew up in Espanola, New Mexico. He attended Northern New Mexico Community College and the College of Santa Fe before getting married and having two children. Prior to becoming sheriff in Rio Arriba County he worked as both a materials science technician and public accountant before being elected sheriff in Rio Arriba County New Mexico.
He resigned his post after being found guilty on federal civil rights charges related to an incident on March 11, 2014 that took place in Rio Arriba County.
On cross-examination of Rodella, the United States used medical records that he had failed to disclose previously as impeachment material. They claimed they showed signs of cognitive impairment, difficulty with concentration, and frequent outbursts without provocation.
An ex-New Mexico sheriff was recently found guilty of brandishing a firearm and violating a motorist’s civil rights during a road-rage incident. Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas Rodella and his son were driving their personal SUV when they followed and tailgated Michael Tafoya’s Mazda before forcing it off the road by forcing it off-ramps.
Court documents state that Sheriff Pereira leapt out of his vehicle with a silver revolver in hand and attacked Tafoya while he begged not to be shot repeatedly, according to prosecutors. Additionally, Pereira displayed his badge.
Rodella was elected sheriff in 2014 following an eventful career spanning 30 years. According to The Albuquerque Journal, as a state police officer in the 1980s he was disciplined for marijuana use, physical abuse, and misusing his weapon.
Achievement and Honors
Thomas Rodella is a former New Mexico sheriff and magistrate judge who was found guilty in September 2014 for violating motorist civil rights and brandishing his weapon while perpetrating violent crimes. Consequently, he received a 121-month prison sentence.
Rodella contended that being a former law enforcement officer should protect him from harsher incarceration consequences; however, the government asserted otherwise. They used prior incidents involving Rodella to demonstrate his mindset rather than bad character, and were necessary for proving he acted intentionally.
Rodella has been segregated from other inmates due to his previous employment as a sheriff’s deputy, yet continues to receive threats through cell door, recreation cage, and shower threats. To address his health concerns he has been prescribed anti-hypertensive and psychiatric medication.
Rodella served with the New Mexico State Police from 1982 until 1995, retiring with a disability pension. During this period, Rodella was disciplined for marijuana use, improper weapons usage and abusing sick leave. Furthermore, his position was used for personal gain through abuse of position.
In 2010, he was elected sheriff of Rio Arriba County; however, after being charged with federal civil rights felony charges in 2014 – following an FBI raid at his Espanola home where they accused him of diverting funds contributed by donors for his wife’s reelection campaign to fund his own candidacy for sheriffship – he resigned his post.
At Rodella’s trial, the government used his medical records in cross examination to claim he suffered from psychotic symptoms. These records, however, reveal that since 2012 he has been taking medications prescribed for PTSD that do not contribute to psychotic episodes or inhibit his participation in general life activities.
U.S. officials employ two strategies to discourage criminal conduct: either prosecute federal crimes and hope that potential perpetrators become aware of it; or warn potential offenders that their conduct will be prosecuted. According to the Court, Rodella substantially complied with USPO requests regarding his assets, providing information that gave an accurate picture of his financial condition.
Rodella has had a turbulent past. Two years earlier, the state supreme court disqualified him as magistrate judge due to misconduct charges and prohibited him from seeking another judicial position. Subsequently he served with the state police until being disciplined for marijuana use, improper weapon usage, falsifying official reports and using his position for personal gain.