ESPANOLA, N.M. (AP) — Federal agents were looking for a New Mexico sheriff’s badge during a May raid to test it for DNA in connection with an encounter with a motorist, newly released court docu ments said.
According to unsealed court documents, FBI agents wanted Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas Rodella’s badge and silver handgun when they searched his house and car, the Albuquerque Journal reports (http://goo.gl/98WuWr).
Rodella and his son were indicted this month for conspiracy to violate a motorist’s civil rights during an off-duty traffic stop in March.
An indictment says the men engaged “in a high-speed pursuit and unreasonable seizure” of the driver, identified in the court papers only as M.T. The sheriff was not in uniform when he jumped out of his Jeep SUV armed with a silver revolver, court papers said.
The indictment says Rodella shoved his badge in the motorist’s face.
According to an FBI affidavit used to obtain a warrant to search Rodella’s home, an agent reviewed Tafoya’s booking photograph from the Rio Arriba County jail “which shows a reddish, swollen area under his right eye.”
“This is consistent with Tafoya’s statement that Sheriff Rodella hit him in the face with his badge, and then ground the badge in his right eye and against his cheek,” the affidavit said.
The new documents do not indicate if anything was seized in the search.
FBI agents raided Rodella’s home in June just hours after he lost the Democratic nomination for Rio Arriba County sheriff to challenger James Lujan by 200 votes. Lujan was a deputy Rodella had fired.
Meanwhile, the Santa Fe New Mexican reports (http://goo.gl/DXHwLf) that Rodella has asked New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassettas to investigate possible misconduct by Rio Arriba County employees.
Reserve Deputy Quintin McShan, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said the office turned over a possible criminal matter to state police on Monday but said he couldn’t identify the targets of the investigation.
Rio Arriba County commissioners gave Rodella until Tuesday to step down as sheriff before they would ask “higher authorities” to remove him from office. But Rodella has said through his lawyer, Robert Gorence, that he will not step down.