RIO ARRIBA COUNTY, N.M. (KRQE) – The trial for Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella started Monday and the man who says he was victimized by Rodella took the stand.
Sheriff Rodella is federally charged with violating the rights of Michael Tafoya. The case is centered around a traffic stop back in March of 2014.
Rodella’a defense attorney told the courts Tafoya was speeding, driving erratically and nearly hit the sheriff. The defense said the sheriff was just enforcing the law when he started chasing after him in his personal SUV and tried to pull him over. They even told the jurors Rodella called in back up.
However on Monday, Tafoya took the stand and testified that Rodella and his son were tailing him. Tafoya said he pulled over to let them pass, and the Rodellas drove toward him aggressively.
Tafoya told jurors he feared for his life so he sped off. He claims he was speeding to get away from the men, at the time, not knowing one was the sheriff.
Tafoya also testified he was forced to stop at a cul-de-sac. He claims the sheriff reached into Tafoya’s car, put a gun to his head and yanked him out of the vehicle.
Tafoya also told jurors he begged Rodella not to kill him.
The defense said that Tafoya’s claims are false and that the sheriff only reached into his car to turn the ignition off. Rodella’s defense attorney is also arguing that Tafoya tried to grab the sheriff’s gun and that’s when a struggle ensued.
Tafoya disputed this, and testified he grabbed the sheriff’s arm to try and point the gun away from his own head.
Investigators said Rodella was in plainclothes when he pulled Tafoya over.
The trial is expected to continue through the week.