NM Sheriff Convicted of Assault for Road Rage Attack

Sheriff Tommy Rodella of Rio Arriba County, New Mexico has been convicted by a federal jury on charges of threatening with a firearm, assault and violation of civil rights for a roadside attack on a motorist while off duty, an attack his son joined in on.

Rio Arriba Sheriff Tommy Rodella, 52, was immediately handcuffed and taken into custody over his attorney’s objections and the cries of his wife, State Rep. Debbie Rodella, following his conviction in Federal court, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

According to court documents, the incident began when an off-duty Rodella tailgated motorist Michael Tafoya, making a “come on” gesture to him.

Rodella, who was in his personal car accompanied by his son, Thomas Rodella Jr., gave chase after Tafoya sped away. After trapping Tafoya, the two men pulled him from his car and onto the ground where Tafoya begged the men not to kill him as the older Rodella brandished a handgun.

According to Tafoya, Rodella Jr. told him the older man with a gun was the sheriff. When Tafoya asked to see his badge, Rodella reportedly grabbed Tafoya by the hair and said, “Here’s my badge, motherf*cker,” and punched him in the face with it multiple times…

Following the conviction of Rodella, U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez issued a statement saying, “Today a federal jury found that in attacking an innocent civilian, Sheriff Rodella chose to abuse his power rather than uphold his oath to protect the public. I commend the victim who testified in this case for having the courage to step forward and assert his civil rights, and for trusting the Department of Justice to protect him. I am hopeful that today’s verdict brings a measure of justice to the victim and the people of Rio Arriba County.”

Rodella apparently has a long history of appalling actions, some of which got him removed as a magistrate by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • alanb

    “An armed society is a polite society.” If Mr. Tafoya had been carrying a gun, none of this would have happened.

  • Michael Heath

    alanb writes:

    “An armed society is a polite society.” If Mr. Tafoya had been carrying a gun, none of this would have happened.

    This reminds me why conservatives also find Stephen Colbert entertaining.

  • dugglebogey

    When cops go to prison, it isn’t pretty.

    That should be motivation for police to act within the law, not believe themselves to be totally above it. But as we know, deterrence is a myth.

  • moarscienceplz

    When cops go to prison, it isn’t pretty.

    That should be motivation for police to act within the law, not believe themselves to be totally above it.

    Police should act within the law because they believe in the law and chose to become cops because they want to uphold the law. It’s true that some thugs seek peace officer jobs because they want more power with which to do thuggish things – it looks like Rodella might be such a person, but his bad behavior is no reason to tar all peace officers with the same brush.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Rodella’s mistake was in not shooting the SOB dead. If he had, and with no dashcams on his private vehicle, he could have told his own story uncontested.

  • rationalinks

    I’m with D.C. Sessions on this. The only lesson learned from this (and other similar stories of late) by those who would abuse their power is, don’t leave a witness to testify against you. Sadly, I see this getting worse before it gets better.

  • otrame

    @4

    But if enough cops get away with brutality and/or murder, all cops WILL be tarred with the same brush. Which will cost them the trust of the public, which will both make their jobs more difficult and more dangerous. There is a natural “us vs. them” culture among cops and it gets much much worse when no one, not even little old white grandmas like me don’t trust them. Without that trust, cops feel more threatened and become more violent. It becomes a positive feedback loop, which is to say, it gets completely out of control very very quickly. Which is what we are seeing.

    There is nothing I admire more than a good cop. But here is the problem, the “us vs. them” attitude forces even good cops to avoid turning in bad cops, that is, if they want to keep on being cops.

    Even the best of cops can’t fix this. This can’t be fixed from below. It takes the upper echelons to say “We will not tolerate mistreatment of our citizens. Not even if they are criminals. Not even if they call us names. Not even if they are not subservient enough to suit us. Not even if they ‘resist arrest’ in a non-lethal way. If you do not comply with this, you are out, and we will prosecute you if you commit assault or murder.”

    That, along with proper training, will fix it. I lived in Madison, Wisc. in the mid 70s and saw it work. Saw it go from people crossing the street to avoid cops and cops getting dirty looks and being called pigs just for walking down the street to causal, friendly conversations with them by the even weirdest of the hippie-types as they walked along. It took about a year. And several fired cops.

  • alanb

    @4,

    Unfortunately, power corrupts, and even some who go into law enforcement for the most noble reasons get taken in by a culture of entitlement and a belief that they have to cut corners in order prevent anarchy. That culture needs to change and that change can only come from the top and from a citizenry that demands it.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    eriff Tommy Rodella of Rio Arriba County, New Mexico has been convicted by a federal jury on charges of threatening with a firearm, assault and violation of civil rights for a roadside attack on a motorist while off duty, an attack his son joined in on.

    Why does it matter that the motorist was off duty? Isn’t an off duty motorist a pedestrian?

     

    alanb “An armed society is a polite society.” If Mr. Tafoya had been carrying a gun, none of this would have happened.”

    No, if Mr Tafoya was carrying a gun, he’d have been a “Mexican gang member”. His wife, too. And his car. And the “come on” sign, is Hispanic code for something bad in Spanish, like “I’m a Mexican gang member and plan to commit a felony against an off-duty cop and his son!” True story.

  • eric

    @4:

    it looks like Rodella might be such a person, but his bad behavior is no reason to tar all peace officers with the same brush.

    He was still Sherriff at the time of conviction. I guess it’s possible that no local official had the power to fire him until his conviction, but it seems more likely that the mayor or whatever person is above him in the chain of command simply chose not tofire him. And that indicates to me that this is not a ‘one bad apple’ situation, but rather the local executive branch is perfectly okay with officers that abuse their power so long as they aren’t found guilty for doing so.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    eric “He was still Sherriff at the time of conviction.”

    Yes, but he was off duty during the assault. Case dismissed!

  • http://www.facebook.com/den.wilson d.c.wilson

    otrame @7:

    But if enough cops get away with brutality and/or murder, all cops WILL be tarred with the same brush.

    Yeah, that ship has not only set sail but is now halfway to circumnavigating the globe at this point. The Blue Wall of Silence protects too many bad cops because none of the good ones want to make waves and risk being ostracized as a rat. Who wants to be caught in a shoot when your backout is suddenly “stuck in traffic” and unable to get to you in time? The police should hold themselves to the highest standards. In practice though, it doesn’t really work that way.

  • tuibguy

    He was still Sherriff at the time of conviction. I guess it’s possible that no local official had the power to fire him until his conviction, but it seems more likely that the mayor or whatever person is above him in the chain of command simply chose not tofire him. And that indicates to me that this is not a ‘one bad apple’ situation, but rather the local executive branch is perfectly okay with officers that abuse their power so long as they aren’t found guilty for doing so.

    Sheriffs are elected officials, county-wide. I am not in New Mexico, so I am not sure what the removal process would be; whether it takes a motion by the County Commissioners, a recall election or if the state is responsible for removing them from office. It would be interesting to find out if anyone at the county level had been in the process of using legal channels to remove him.

  • Anri

    alanb says:

    “An armed society is a polite society.”

    Good point.

    I think we can all agree that police officers are far more polite when approaching a suspect presumed to be armed than otherwise.

    Right?

    Likewise, the genteel natures of well-armed gang members are legendary.

    If Mr. Tafoya had been carrying a gun, none of this would have happened.

    Care to explain how carrying a gun prevents people from tailgating and being aggressive towards you?

    I’ll check back, ’cause I’m curious.

    What you mean is “If Mr. Tafoya had been carrying a gun, this would have ended differently.”

    That’s not really the same sentiment at all.

  • alanb

    @ Anri,

    I was channeling Robert. Heinlein and Wayne LaPierre so you will have to ask them for the answers to your questions.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Anri, whoosh.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    The Rodellas have quite a colorful history – only slightly to my surprise (I’ve lived in northern New Mexico), as Democrats.