Former New Mexico Sheriff Unsuccessful in Appealing Conviction for Civil Rights Violation

Last year, Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella was found guilty of violating a man’s civil rights during a traffic stop. The incident occurred when Rodella was off-duty; the traffic stop gone bad cost Rodella his job, and left him facing a ten year sentence.

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According to the New Mexico Political Report, Rodella and his son were driving a jeep when Rodella allegedly chased down a motorist and pulled him over after the man tapped his brakes and flipped the sheriff off. The motorist, a man, said he was upset because he was being tailgated by Rodella’s jeep. After chasing the man down, Rodella and his son allegedly forced the man out of his vehicle at gunpoint. Rodella only showed the man his sheriff’s badge once he was on the ground, slapping it against the victim’s face.

A jury found Rodella guilty of violating the man’s civil rights during the stop; he appealed the decision before the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, who confirmed the conviction on Wednesday. Rodella argued in the appeal that previous incidents by Rodella were improperly admitted into evidence by the court, and that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction. The Appeals Court found that the evidence supporting Rodella’s guilt was “overwhelming,” and that any errors found at trial were small and their cumulative effect harmless.

Rodella was sentenced to ten years and one month in prison, along with a $200,000 fine. Rodella is the husband of State Representative Debbie Rodella, D-Espanola.

Basically, a defendant appeals a verdict or sentence by requesting an appellate court to review the details of the case in an effort to change the decision of the lower court. Most appeals are made to intermediate appellate courts comprised of three-judge panels, with the convicted defendant filing a brief with his or her claims that errors made at trial support or warrant a reversal of the jury or judge’s verdict. The appellate court may hear oral arguments from both the prosecution and defense after the government responds to the defendant’s request, and it often takes weeks or even months for the three-judge panel to issue a written decision. In the majority of cases, the appeals court upholds the conviction, however there are occasions on which the appellate court overturns a conviction or sends the case back to be retried.

One of the most important factors in a successful appeal is choosing an experienced attorney with a proven track record for success. If you have been convicted of any type of crime in Michigan including a drug offense, sex crime, robbery, theft, or even homicide, it is vital to work with a seasoned Michigan criminal appeals lawyer who is skilled and knowledgeable in the process.

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