ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A New Mexico sheriff accused of roughing up a motorist made another questionable traffic stop in which he tailgated a driver without his emergency lights on and later threatened to arrest her, federal prosecutors said.
In court papers filed last week, U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez said Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas Rodella followed the 52-year-old woman two months be fore authorities say a driver was dragged from his car and thrown to the ground during an off-duty traffic case.
The latest documents said Rodella rapidly approached Yvette Maes at night without his emergency lights on and tailgated her.
“She slowed down to let the other vehicle pass but the vehicle continued to tailgate her for some time,” court papers said. “When the other vehicle finally passed Maes, she flashed her high-beam headlights at it.”
Rodella then turned on his emergency lights and pulled over a short distance in front of Maes, documents said.
During the stop, court papers said, Rodella demanded to know why she didn’t stop sooner because he was headed to an emergency. He called her actions road rage, documents said.
Maes questioned Rodella about why he didn’t just pass her and called his tailgating an act of road rage, documents say, and he threatened to take her to jail. Court papers said he then left the scene.
Robert Gorence, a lawyer for Rodella, told KOB-TV he has not reviewed the new filing. Gorence did not immediately return an email from The Associated Press.
Rodella was indicted last month on conspiracy to violate a motorist’s civil rights during a March encounter with another motorist. He has pleaded not guilty.
The indictment says Rodella and his son engaged in a high-speed pursuit and unreasonable seizure of the driver, identified in the court papers only as M.T. The sheriff wasn’t in uniform when he chased down the motorist, jumped out of his personal SUV with a gun, and shoved his badge in the motorist’s face, court papers said.
The driver was dragged from his car and thrown into the dirt, according to the papers.
When the motorist asked to see Rodella’s badge, the sheriff pulled the man’s head from the dirt by his hair and then slammed the badge into his right cheek and eye, the indictment said.
Prosecutors later dropped the indictment against the younger Rodella and said he may lack the cognitive ability to form intent.
The case against Sheriff Rodella has led to calls for him to resign.
Lawyers for the sheriff accused Martinez of misconduct, saying he has a vendetta against their client and threatened him with arrest during a heated May meeting over U.S. Forest Service patrols in northern New Mexico.
Prosecutors said they expect to have Maes testify in the March case.