Freddy Rodriguez examines paperwork during the hearing in Malheur County Circuit Court on March 11, 2020. (The Enterprise – Les Zaitz)
VALE – Malheur County Circuit Court Judge Lung Hung on Thursday dismissed a restraining order filed by a local woman against Ontario City Councilor Freddy Rodriguez, finding that she didn’t prove she had been abused and remained in imminent danger from him.
The Enterprise does not identify victims of domestic abuse.
The woman, a former girlfriend, obtained the protective order Jan. 25, describing what she said was an assault in her Ontario home. According to her sworn testimony and documents submitted to the court, Rodriguez entered her home demanding the keys to a truck he wanted to move. When the woman refused to give him the keys, she claimed, Rodriguez pinned her against an antique hutch and wrested them from her hand, scratching her neck in the process. She said he later threw the keys at her and then a piece that broke off the truck.
Rodriguez forcefully contested these claims in a three-hour hearing, acting as his own attorney. In his sworn testimony, he described an altercation at the woman’s house that took place not inside, but on the threshold. He denied the woman’s claims, instead claiming that the woman threw the keys at him and ordered him to move the truck so that he could remove a car he’d left on her property.
A key to the case was the testimony of Marie Groberg, a friend of Rodriguez’s. She testified that she had watched the episode from the road and didn’t see Rodriguez enter the woman’s home as the woman had claimed.
“You never went in the house,” said Groberg to Rodriguez during questioning. “If it was me I wouldn’t have dared gone in.”
Hung dismissed the restraining order, but left unsettled what Rodriguez said was central to the case – the fate of a dog named Unicorn. Unicorn was originally Rodriguez’s, but he gave the dog to the woman and her daughter, which he acknowledged in a text message referenced in the hearing.
In his testimony, Rodriguez suggested that the woman had entered a relationship with him and later fabricated the allegations underlying the restraining order all with an eye towards obtaining custody of Unicorn.
“These are all just cold allegations to try to discredit my ownership of my dog,” he said. “As I already provided evidence to, this dog was targeted since the beginning of me talking to her. Since the beginning, she was always trying to get me to release that dog to her.”
“If she’d wanted to keep the dog, she’d just keep the dog,” said Brian Zanotelli, the woman’s lawyer. “She didn’t have to report the scratch on her neck to keep the dog.”
Hung said that because he was dismissing the restraining order, he had no authority to rule on Unicorn’s custody, which is a civil matter, and advised Rodriguez and the woman to resolve it through other means.
Rodriguez remains under a previous restraining order issued against him last summer in a case in which a judge found he was a risk to the woman involved.
Meantime,a petitioner started gathering signatures this week to recall Rodriguez from his position as a city councilor, citing his history of domestic violence charges, which also spans California and Idaho.
This story will be updated.
News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.
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