Lawyers: Former Lincoln Co. sheriff sex abuse charges are double jeopardy
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Lawyers: Former Lincoln Co. sheriff sex abuse charges are double jeopardy

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HAILEY — The former Lincoln County sheriff who faces charges of sexually abusing a child appeared in court Wednesday as his attorneys argued with the prosecutor over the rules for his scheduled trial.

Defense attorneys told Judge Ned Williamson they think Rene Rodriguez is facing double jeopardy because two of the charges in the case lack specifics.

Rodriguez was indicted by a grand jury on seven felony counts of sexually abusing an underage girl between 2005 and 2014, starting when the child was 9 years old. The multiple counts appear to be for different incidents with the same girl.

He is charged with one count of child sexual abuse of a minor under 16 years of age, four counts of lewd conduct with a child under 16, and two counts of rape.

After he was charged, Rodriguez resigned from his role as Lincoln County sheriff on April 8.

He was initially held on $500,000 bond, but that was later reduced to $100,000, which he posted to be released from jail.

Attorneys Cheri Hicks and Justin McCarthy asked the judge to dismiss one of the counts of rape because the wording of both counts was identical and non-specific.

McCarthy told Williamson that such language amounted to double jeopardy, meaning Rodriguez would be tried twice for the same offense.

The defense also took said the lewd conduct terminology is vague because it did not include the place or the identities of those involved.

“Mr. Rodriguez needs to know what act he’s defending himself on,” McCarthy said.

The prosecutor, Deputy Attorney General Kristina Schindele, offered to clarify the information, adding the location and how Rodriguez and the girl were involved in the act.

The locations include Eden, Twin Falls, the Splash and Dash in Bellevue, Richfield, and a Habitat for Humanity house, Williamson said.

McCarthy also argued the use of the term “public defender” would lead the jury to presume Rodriguez is indigent, which would be prejudicial.

He also said referring to the girl as the “victim” presumes a crime has already been committed. “It has a subconscious effect on the jury,” McCarthy said.

The judge said that if those common terms were banned, they might be used inadvertently or innocently.

Williamson also ruled that information about charges Rodriguez faces in Twin Falls County should not be included at trial.

Williamson took other motions under advisement, with his rulings to be issued during a follow-up hearing on Monday.

Those included preventing the prosecution from including information about uncharged crimes Rodriguez might have committed during the trial, and the inclusion of medical records.

During Monday’s hearing, jury questionnaires will also be discussed and some potential jurors may be excused based on their responses.

The maximum sentence, if Rodriguez is convicted, would be life in prison.

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