HAILEY — The recently-resigned sheriff of Lincoln County “fully disputes” allegations that he sexually abused an underage girl for nearly a decade, his attorney said in a court hearing April 15.
Rene Rodriguez, 40, intends to challenge the seven charges against him: one count of sexual abuse of a minor, four counts of lewd conduct with a child under 16 and two counts of rape, public defender Cheri Hicks told the judge at a District Court arraignment in Blaine County.
The former sheriff resigned from his role on April 8, three days after his arrest. A redacted grant jury indictment accuses him of sexually abusing an underage girl between 2005 and 2014, starting when the child was 9 years old, in Blaine, Lincoln, Jerome and Twin Falls counties.
Rodriguez did not enter a plea of guilty or not guilty at the hearing on Monday, as Hicks was assigned to be his attorney that same day and did not have sufficient time to review his case. Private attorney Michael Wood of Twin Falls represented Rodriguez at his initial court appearance last week, but Rodriguez had since requested a public defender after determining that he could not afford to retain a private attorney, the former sheriff told the court.
But while no formal plea was entered on Monday, Hicks made it clear that Rodriguez intends to challenge the charges against him.
The defense requested at the arraignment that Judge Ned Williamson lower Rodriguez’s $500,000 bond, which Hicks described as “completely unreasonable.” Williamson agreed to make the bond $100,000, noting that Rodriguez had been aware of the law enforcement investigation since January and did not try to flee the community during that time.
“These are very serious charges,” Williamson said in explanation of why he would not lower the bond below $100,000.
As part of the terms of his original bond, Rodriguez was not allowed to have any contact with minor children. The defense asked the court on Monday to make an exception for Rodriguez’s own children, but the judge did not grant the request.
Williamson also attached an additional condition to the lowered bond amount on Monday: Rodriguez may not carry any weapons. The condition was added to reduce any risk if bond is revoked and law enforcement needs to take Rodriguez into custody again, Williamson said.
Rodriguez will appear in court again two weeks from Monday to enter a plea.