Accused kidnapper: Victim was supplier
A 31-year-old man from Reno accused of kidnapping a woman at gunpoint in November testified Wednesday that he came to South Lake Tahoe to buy a quarter-pound of marijuana from the woman he allegedly abducted.
Joseph Rodoni said in El Dorado County Superior Court that he had planned to buy the large quantity of pot from a woman at the corner of U.S. Highway 50 and Reno Avenue.
“I saw her at Reno Avenue and 50 and (called her name)” Rodoni said. “She approached me and said, ‘Joe,’ and got in to the vehicle.
“I suggested we go to my motel. She said ‘That’s not how the deal was supposed to go.’ “
Rodoni said a plan agreed to beforehand specified the exchange of drugs for money would take place in the blue Ford Mustang he had borrowed from a roommate and driven to the basin.
Once he got to the Midway Motel, an inn at the 3800 block of Highway 50, Rodoni said he had agreed to complete the transaction in the car but first he went to his room to use the bathroom and to get a digital scale to weigh the marijuana.
When he returned, he said, the woman was gone and so was the $1,000 in cash he had left in his jacket that was in the backseat of the Mustang.
Rodoni said it was only then that he realized there an was an unloaded gun in the car. While in his room he said someone dug trash from under the passenger seat of the car and that made a semi-automatic appear from under the passenger seat.
On Tuesday, the woman testified that, in fear for her life, she ran a short distance to a Subway sandwich shop and called for a shuttle ride from the Stateline casino where she works.
Rodoni, who testified that he had drank about six beers and smoked marijuana earlier in the day, said he got very angry and began to search South Shore for the woman, all the while swilling from a pint of Southern Comfort, a blended whiskey.
A young man who lives alongside Pioneer Trail said that afternoon he met Rodoni after his car spun out into a snowbank. He said he and another passerby helped tow his Mustang out of the snow.
“He seemed a little bit out of it,” the witness said. “He seemed pretty relaxed.”
The young man testified Rodoni offered him him a sip of liquor, mentioned that he had “kind green” or “good nugs,” but then showed him a gun and said “It’s all about this.” The witness said Rodoni then drove from the scene toward Stateline.
A California Highway Patrol Officer found Rodoni a short time later. He said Rodoni and his car were stuck in a snowbank near Pioneer Trail and Busch Way.
Rodoni testified he was completely lost while driving on Pioneer Trail. “I was absolutely smashed by that time. It was that entire pint of Southern Comfort,” he said. “I consumed it quickly in big gulps. When I was arrested I was completely gone.”
Rodoni broke into tears several times Wednesday. He turned often to catch a glimpse of his 9-month-old daughter who had come to court with his girlfriend.
Rodoni is a convicted felon. In 1992, he was found guilty of second-degree commercial burglary in Santa Rosa, Calif., and in 1994 he was convicted of commercial burglary in Nevada.
El Dorado County Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe said Rodoni’s convictions are not strikes, but that he did serve time in prison for each offense.
Rodoni is now charged with kidnapping with allegations of firearm use, assault with a deadly weapon, being a felon in possession of a firearm and driving under the influence.
If the jury finds Rodoni guilty on all charges, Uthe said the defendant could be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The trial is set to resume Monday.
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