Mechanic charged with manslaughter wants case dropped
April 5, 2005
PLACERVILLE – The attorney for a former South Shore auto mechanic charged with manslaughter argued before a judge this week that charges against his client should be dropped, saying his constitutional rights were violated after being videotaped by El Dorado County deputies.
Attorney William Routsis said that he, defendant Rodney John Sency, and a second lawyer were videotaped without their knowledge following an August 2002 interview with authorities.
Sency, 53, is charged with voluntary manslaughter, illegal movement of a body and failure to notify the coroner of a death in connection with the Aug. 2, 2002, discovery of Edward Ortega’s body off Mormon Emigrant Trail about 15 miles south of Pollock Pines.
Ortega, 45, was a concrete mason hired to do work at Sency’s 40-acre ranch.
Sency contends charges against him should be dismissed because he and his lawyers were videotaped alone for 30 minutes in a briefing room at the sheriff’s South Lake Tahoe office. Deputies contend the videotaping was accidental.
The Monday hearing in Placerville on the dismissal request by Sency was continued to May 10.
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Sheriff’s Deputy Pat Tener told the judge that the tape accidentally kept rolling after he recorded with the acknowledgment of being recorded, a brief statement from Sency in which he said he had killed Ortega in self-defense.
After the statement was made, the tape inadvertently kept running when Sency continued to talk with his attorneys in the briefing room, Tener testified.
No law enforcement officials have ever viewed the contents of the tape involving discussions between defendant Sency and his attorneys, according to testimony in the hearing on the motion to dismiss the case.
Tener said the taping error happened after then-Undersheriff Jeff Neves told him several people in the parking lot wanted to speak with a deputy.
Assistant District Attorney Paul Sutherland asked Tener whether in his 17 years as a law enforcement official he’d ever had someone, accompanied by two attorneys, come to make a statement about a homicide.
No, answered Tener. He said he left the interview room where he, Sency and his attorneys had gathered to contact detectives in Placerville who were working the case.
The sheriff’s deputy said he forgot the videotape continued to run after the brief statement by Sency, who declined to answer any questions.
Tener, the lawyers and Sency later had pizza and coffee as they waited for the detectives, who then got the same brief statement from Sency that he had given earlier.
“I personally spoke with my client about what our defense strategy was, etc., etc., etc., in the course of the videotaping,” Routsis wrote in a court document filed in connection with the dismissal request.
El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Daniel B. Proud, who presided over the hearing, said he will likely review the tape.
Sency was arrested in connection with the death of Ortega, whose body was found near his flatbed truck off the Mormon Emigrant Trail. The scene first appeared to involve a motor vehicle accident, but further investigation revealed that someone apparently pushed the truck over to make it appear Ortega died in an accident, according to the prosecution.