Charges lowered in kidnapping case
This drunken driving spree resulted in more than a hangover.
Convicted on charges that include false imprisonment of a woman, being a felon in possession of a firearm and drunken driving, an El Dorado County Superior Court judge Wednesday sentenced a 31-year-old man from Reno to five years and eight months in prison.
The court found Rodoni was driving drunk in a 1989 Mustang in November when he picked up a 29-year-old woman from a bus stop at Reno Avenue and U.S. Highway 50 and held her against her will. In addition to a pint of Southern Comfort, Rodoni also had an unloaded pistol in the car.
Rodoni’s case was settled in the middle of a retrial on a kidnapping charge. The first trial, which resulted two felony weapon convictions against the 31-year-old, was declared a mistrial on the kidnapping charge because of a hung jury.
Wearing a jail-issued orange jumpsuit, Rodoni nodded his head in approval as the sentence was issued by Judge Jerald Lasarow.
Simon Harvey, Rodoni’s court-appointed attorney, said his client was pleased with the outcome because the charge had been reduced from a much more serious charge, kidnapping with allegations of firearm use, to false imprisonment.
If convicted of kidnapping, Rodoni could have faced up to 20 years in prison. The felony false imprisonment charge he plead guilty to is not considered a strike and that means that will likely serve just 50 percent of his sentence.
Rodoni, who has served time in prison twice before because of two commercial burglary convictions, may be released in about two-and-a-half-years with good behavior. His pleading guilty to false imprisonment added only eight months to a five-year prison sentence he was expected to get for drunken driving, being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm and driving without a license.
“For Joseph it’s been extremely difficult facing a 20-year prison sentence and he was willing to exchange that for eight months,” Harvey said. “He wanted closure and to avoid anymore risk at trial.”
El Dorado County Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe said he agreed to settle the case because he was missing witnesses.
“I wish we could have given him more (prison) time but we ran into logistical obstructions that we feared might occur,” Uthe said. “We were missing witnesses who had testified in the last trial and two additional witnesses. One who we planned to call is in Mexico and another is in New York City.”
In his first trial, Rodoni testified that he was in South Lake Tahoe to make a drug deal. He said he came to meet the 29-year-old woman and buy from her a quarter-pound of marijuana.
“His position has been all along that he never threatened her with a gun,” Harvey said. “We did recognize that many people found it difficult to believe (that he came to South Lake Tahoe for pot) and it did factor into our decision to settle the case.”
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