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FBI arrests embattled Rio Arriba County sheriff, son

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The home of Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella, shown here at a 2011 meeting in Abiquiu, was searchedby FBI agents this morning. (JOURNAL FILE)

Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella, shown here at a 2011 meeting in Abiquiu. (JOURNAL FILE)

United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico Damon Martinez and Carol K.O. Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, speak to the media about the federal indictment of Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico Damon Martinez and Carol Lee, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, speak to the media about the federal indictment of Rio Arriba County Sheriff Tommy Rodella. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

The FBI says a New Mexico sheriff and his son have been arrested in an ongoing investigation.

Rio Arriba Sheriff Thomas R. “Tommy” Rodella and his son Thomas R. Rodella Jr. were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of conspiracy to violate the civil rights of man they chased down in a high speed chase last march.

Both men appeared before a federal magistrate Friday morning and pleaded not guilty to the charges. A judge on Friday afternoon released them on their own recognizance. As a term of his release, Sheriff Rodella will not be allowed to carry a firearm.

According to a federal indictment returned earlier this week, Rodella’s son drove the sheriff’s personal car in the high speed chase, eventually stopping the man identified only as M.T. and challenging him to a fight.

M.T. then drove away and the chase began again, the indictment charges. The second time the Rodellas stopped the man, Sheriff Rodella, in uniform, jumped into M.T.’s car brandishing a silver revolver and assaulted the man.

The indictment charges the younger Rodella dragged the man out of his car.

Sheriff Rodella had other deputies comes to the scene and book him into the Rio Arriba Detention Center. The indictment charges that both Rodellas made false representations that the man had attempted to injure Sheriff Rodella.

The indictment also charges both men with falsifying records to charge M.T. and cover up what occurred.

They are charged with conspiracy against the free exercise of civil rights, deprivation of rights, brandishing a firearm and two counts of falsification of documents.

Rodella was arrested at his office Friday morning. His son, Thomas, Jr., was arrested at the family’s Española home.

U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez said the federal charges filed against Rodella do not mandate his removal from office. Rodella’s role as sheriff will need to be decided on a local level, Martinez said.

In June, FBI agents raided Rodella’s home in connection with an aggravated assault case. The raid occurred just hours after Rodella lost re-election.

Rodella’s home was search earlier this year by FBI agents.

Albuquerque attorney Robert Gorence is representing Rodella. Jason Bowles is representing Rodella Jr.

This is a developing story. Check back later for more information.

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