Man found not guilty of kidnapping, convicted of two different felonies
A brawny defendant with a jutting jaw dropped his head to a table and sobbed in relief Monday in El Dorado County Superior Court.
Emotion burst from Joseph Rodoni, a 31-year-old from Reno, after a jury revealed it could not reach a verdict concerning a kidnapping charge filed against him.
Rodoni had been accused of abducting a South Lake Tahoe woman at gunpoint. The woman testified she was waiting at a bus stop at Reno Avenue and U.S. Highway 50 in November when at about 2 p.m. Rodoni drove up in a blue Ford Mustang, pulled a gun from the jacket and demanded she get in his car.
She told police he drove her to the Midway Motel and there she escaped while Rodoni was digging in his pocket for keys.
Rodoni testified Thursday that he picked up the woman so he could buy a quarter-pound of marijuana from her. Rodoni, an admitted heavy pot smoker, said his friend had set up the drug deal for him, but when he left the woman for a few minutes to get a digital scale from his motel room, she stole $1,000 from a jacket and then ran from the scene.
“We the jury are at an impasse. Further deliberation will not change the outcome we have reached,” a foreperson said in court. “We discussed it and none of the jurors have any contest about the evidence presented. Some of us felt there was enough evidence to convict some of us didn’t. (What would help) is more testimony from witnesses who weren’t called.”
The jury was split 6 to 6 regarding the kidnapping charge, but it did convict Rodoni of two felonies and a misdemeanor. Because the 31-year-old was found guilty of those charges – being a felon in possession of a concealed weapon, being a felon in possession of a firearm and DUI – he is expected to be sentenced to five years in prison.
With good behavior, Rodoni will probably have to serve half of the prison term.
“I predicted this exact outcome,” said Rodoni’s court-appointed attorney, Simon Harvey. “I essentially conceded the felon with a gun counts and drunk driving but we didn’t concede the kidnap allegation. The victim’s story seemed to me to have so many problems. She made conflicting statements. Her behavior following the alleged incident was bizarre. There were so many holes in her story.”
El Dorado County Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe said he was disappointed the jury did not reach a verdict regarding the kidnapping charge. He said he may retry Rodoni on that charge.
A hearing is scheduled Wednesday during which Rodoni may be sentenced or Uthe will file a motion to retry Rodoni for kidnapping.
“I don’t believe the prosecution met the burden of proof,” said a juror who voted not guilty on the kidnapping charge. “We all wanted more witnesses to be called. We would have liked to have heard more from the lady in question (the alleged victim). It was either he was lying or she was lying. We couldn’t reach either decision, so we were deadlocked.”
Uthe said if he does take the case to trial again he plans to subpoena additional witnesses, including a man who owned the car Rodoni drove to South Shore and the friend who joined him on the trip.
Uthe said he has not be able to find one of the witnesses who is a transient and that he has Washoe County authorities looking for the other man.
“I voted guilty. It was a very frustrating experience,” said Bobbie Russo, a juror. “To me I thought the evidence presented was pretty clear. It’s frustrating, but if I ever had to go through it, I guess I’d want a jury trial.”
If Rodoni had been found guilty of kidnapping the woman, he could have been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In 1992, Rodoni was found guilty of second-degree commercial burglary in Santa Rosa, Calif., and in 1994 he was convicted of commercial burglary in Nevada.
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