Kidnapping case to be retried by district attorney
With the first case declared a mistrial because a jury did not reach a verdict, a prosecutor said he plans to retry a Reno man for kidnapping.
A jury could not break its 6-6 deadlock on the kidnapping charge Monday in El Dorado County Superior Court, but they did find Joseph Rodoni, 31, guilty of two felonies and two misdemeanors stemming from his drunken driving.
El Dorado County Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe alleges that during a drinking spree, Rodoni abducted at gunpoint a 29-year-old woman from a South Lake Tahoe bus stop.
Rodoni was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a concealed weapon, being a felon in possession of a firearm, driving under the influence of alcohol and driving without a license. And because of two prior convictions for commercial burglary, one in Nevada, another in Santa Rosa, Calif., he is expected to be sentenced to five years in prison.
But that sentence estimate is only valid if a jury acquits Rodoni of kidnapping the woman, or Uthe decides to dismiss the charge.
Rodoni has a right to have his second trial within 60 days. El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Jerald Lasarow has scheduled the trial April 9, with a hearing to decide whether the case will be settled slated for April 5.
Uthe told Lasarow that Simon Harvey, Rodoni’s court-appointed public defender, rejected a plea agreement that would have sentenced his client to nine years in prison instead of a 20-year sentence he could get if he is found guilty of kidnapping.
Uthe said Wednesday the he had spoken to several jurors that sat for the first trial who said they would have liked more witnesses to testify.
Uthe has about a month to track down additional witnesses, one being a longtime friend of Rodoni who now lives in Denver and another who was in the process of buying the blue Mustang the defendant drove to South Shore.
“It’s going to be very difficult to do the necessary legal work to bring in witnesses from outside of the state, but hopefully we’ll be ready to go,” Uthe said. “Ultimately it comes down to looking at the case, talking to the jurors and seeing what concerns they have . . . but if I can’t find some people I need, I just may dismiss.”
Harvey said he is surprised the prosecution wants to retry his client, but his approach to a second trial will be similar to his defense in the first.
“It is unusual (to retry) with a 50-50 split (juror vote), that’s my experience,” Harvey said. “I think any new witnesses I’ll be calling will be local witnesses to prove more inconsistencies in the alleged victim’s statements.”
In closing statements Monday, both attorneys argued opposing stories. Harvey said the 29-year-old who alleges Rodoni kidnapped her at gunpoint, victimized his client by stealing $1,000 in cash he left unattended in the Mustang.
Rodoni testified that he brought the money to South Shore to buy a quarter-pound of marijuana and the woman he allegedly abducted was supposed to sell him the pot.
The woman testified that she has never had anything to do with marijuana. She said she was headed to work at a Stateline casino when Rodoni drove up to a bus stop at Reno Avenue and U.S. Highway 50, pulled a gun from his jacket and demanded she get in the Mustang. She told police he drove her to the Midway Motel but that she escaped while he searched his pocket for keys.
Clarification: Tuesday’s Tahoe Daily Tribune contained an inaccurate headline, “Man found not guilty in kidnap,” concerning a case in El Dorado County Superior Court. A jury of seven women and five men did not reach a verdict regarding a kidnapping charge filed against Joseph Rodoni, a 31-year-old from Reno.
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