New Mexico sheriff under federal indictment

An embattled New Mexico county sheriff was barred from running for judicial office before he was elected sheriff.
By Frances Burns  |  Aug. 15, 2014 at 3:51 PM
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ALBUQUERQUE, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- A county sheriff in New Mexico and his son were arrested Friday on federal charges of violating the civil rights of a driver during a high-speed chase.

Tommy Rodella, who was elected sheriff in 2010 in Rio Arriba County on the Colorado border, lost in the Democratic primary in June and is set to leave office at the end of the year. County Manager Tomas Camp said he should resign now.

A federal indictment gives investigators' version of a confrontation between Rodella, his son and a driver identified only by initials but said in previous news stories to be Manuel Tafoya, 26, a Rio Arriba resident. Tafoya said that Rodella, driving a personal vehicle, tailgated him and then, when he pulled over to let the sheriff pass, stopped his own car. Tafoya said he was threatened with a gun and beaten.

Tafoya was charged with assaulting a police officer after the incident in March. At the time, Rodella said Tafoya tried to run him over during a traffic stop.

Investigators with the FBI apparently found Tafoya's story credible.

"The FBI wants to make it clear that no one is above the law," Carol Lee, special agent in charge of the Albuquerque division, said during a news conference Friday morning.

The FBI investigated Rodella last year, looking into a scholarship program he set up that accepted payments from motorists in lieu of traffic fines. The former police officer ran for sheriff after a short and stormy career as a magistrate judge that ended when the state Supreme Court barred him from running for any judgeship in New Mexico.

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