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ALBUQUERQUE (AP) — A northern New Mexico sheriff who has had brushes with scandal throughout his career was arrested Friday on charges alleging he assaulted a man with a gun following a high-speed chase, according to authorities and court records.
FBI spokesman Frank Fisher confirmed Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas Rodella and his son, Thomas, Jr., were arrested in their Espanola home but he wouldn’t say why.
Federal court documents filed Tuesday, however, say both men were indicted on charges of conspiracy and falsifying records related to the March incident.The men, the indictment said, engaged “in a high-speed pursuit and unreasonable seizure” of a motorist identified only as M.T.
The sheriff was not in uniform when he jumped out of his Jeep SUV with a silver revolver in hand, court papers said.
“Rodella assaulted M.T. with a silver revolver while M.T. continually begged not to be shot,” the indictment said.
U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez and FBI Special Agent in Charge Carol Lee planned a news conference Friday morning.
A lawyer for Rodella didn’t immediately return a phone message and email from The Associated Press.
In June, FBI agents raided Rodella’s home just hours after he lost the Democratic nomination for Rio Arriba County sheriff by coming in second to challenger James Lujan by 200 votes. Lujan was a former deputy Rodella had fired.
Rodella’s home was raided as authorities investigated the March arrest of 26-year-old Michael Tafoya, a driver Rodella had detained, Rodella’s then spokesman Jake Arnold said at the time.
Tafoya was arrested on charges of aggravated assault of a peace officer and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on March 11, but prosecutors dismissed the case two weeks later.
Tafoya, driving a green Mazda, pulled out and almost hit Rodella, who was driving a Jeep with his son as a passenger, according to a court document.
The sheriff then saw the Mazda almost rear-end another vehicle, the document said. Without explaining whether the Mazda driver stopped on his own or Rodella pulled him over, the report said the Rodella “presented his badge” to the Mazda driver and identified himself as sheriff.