The Malheur County Courthouse in Vale. (The Enterprise/Rachel Parsons)
ONTARIO - Ontario City Councilor Freddy Rodriguez twice before has been accused of domestic violence, once resulting in a guilty plea to a criminal charge, according to Canyon County District Court records in Idaho.
The prior criminal cases come to light as the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office investigates allegations that Rodriguez threatened a Malheur County woman. The victim earlier this month obtained a restraining order against the councilor. The Enterprise does not identify victims of domestic abuse.
Two other local people said they have complained that they found Rodriguez’s behavior threatening. Dan Capron, president of the Ontario City Council, said he went to the Oregon State Police three or four months ago to report that he felt physically threatened by Rodriguez “like a school yard bully.”
While Capron said Rodriguez never made physical threats toward him, he “just felt threatened.”
And last week, a former boyfriend of the victim asked Ontario city officials to investigate what he described as “public threats” by Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, 38, responding to two pages of written questions from the Enterprise, said in an email Tuesday “what you are asking for is to make me disclose sensitive information. Sorry.”
He previously had said allegations that led to the restraining order weren’t true and that he would seek a hearing to contest them.
As of Monday, Malheur County Circuit Court records showed no request for such a hearing.
On Friday, June 19, Rodriguez obtained his own restraining order, saying in a court filing he felt threatened by the woman who obtained the earlier order against him.
The mounting focus on Rodriguez comes as he has participated in recent local protests to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
The city has no involvement in the matter due to a conflict of interest, said Adam Brown, Ontario city manager. According to the rules and procedures of the Ontario City Council, a seat becomes vacant under a set of 10 conditions — one being getting convicted of certain crimes. Rodriguez has not been charged with any crimes since assuming his council seat in January 2019.
The Ontario woman who on June 4 won a court order that Rodriguez have no contact with her said in her court filing that Rodriguez had a “past domestic violence history California, Idaho.”
No California record of a domestic violence case involving Rodriguez could be readily located by the Enterprise, but Idaho courts showed he was charged in two instances in that state.
According to an application submitted to Oregon authorities, Rodriguez received his GED from San Jose Job Corps, a technical school in San Jose, California, and studied computer-aided architectural drafting. He also studied general education at Hartnell College in Salinas, California, and computer networking at Stevens-Henager College, which has campuses in Utah and Idaho. It is unclear which campus he attended.
He subsequently lived in Nampa and Caldwell, Idaho, was homeless at one point, and moved to Ontario about five years ago, according to a blog he posted on his city councilor website.
He has listed jobs as a personal service worker, a customer service rep and a grocery store deli worker. He reported to the state ethics commission in April that he was employed by Lifeways.
In November 2018, he won a three-way race for a city council seat.
“My strong communication skills allow me to articulately and thoughtfully communicate without bullying, manipulating or belittling the public, staff or council members,” Rodriguez wrote in October 2018 on his political blog.
Nothing in his campaign material suggested a history of domestic violence captured in the Idaho court records.
Following an incident on March 14, 2010, Rodriguez was charged with domestic battery, a misdemeanor.
According to a police affidavit in the case, the victim went to Rodriguez’s apartment at his request when their child was ill, and he became angry when she wanted to take the child with her to pick up her other child. The affidavit said Rodriguez ran across the room and shoved the victim, “knocking her to the ground.”
The affidavit said Rodriguez subsequently sent her a text saying he didn’t intend for her to fall “like that” and that he threatened her when she told him she was going to call the police.
Rodriguez at the time told police he bumped the victim, who fell, but that she got up and pushed him and he fell onto a couch holding the child.
Court records show that five months later, Rodriguez’s attorney told a judge that the criminal charge would be dropped if Rodriguez completed a 12-week “Men’s Healthy Relationship” program.
Just 10 days after that court proceeding, Rodriguez was arrested for domestic assault with another victim, according to court records.
The victim, who was in a dating relationship with Rodriguez, told police that he stood in a bedroom doorway and kept her from leaving, according to a police affidavit filed to support Rodriguez’s arrest. She said Rodriguez wanted her to apologize to his ex-girlfriend for making statements about his daughter, and he “balled up his fists and flinched at her,” the affidavit stated. He told her he was going to kick her ass, she said, and she tried to push him out of the way “because she was afraid he was going to punch her,” the affidavit said.
A 7-year-old witness said she heard Rodriguez tell the victim “I’m going to ‘f’ you up” and feared he was going to hit the victim, the affidavit said.
Rodriguez told police at the time that he asked the victim to step into the bedroom and she obliged, but that he didn’t keep her there. He called his ex-girlfriend and held the phone up to the victim’s ear, he said, and she scratched his forearm while trying to grab the phone. He said he was upset with the victim “and told her the situation made him feel like he would get physical,” according to the affidavit.
On Nov. 17, 2010, prosecutors amended the charges in this instance to include false imprisonment and an enhanced penalty for the domestic assault because a child was present, court records show. As part of a plea deal, the additional charges were dismissed while Rodriguez pleaded guilty to domestic assault.
He was subsequently sentenced to 24 months of probation and required to attend a 52-week domestic battery treatment, court records show.
His charge in the first case was dismissed on Dec. 30, 2010, after he completed five of 12 weeks of court-ordered treatment, court records show. In a review hearing for the second case on March 17, 2011, Rodriguez’s attorney stated that he had completed 14 classes, and the judge advised that “no further review hearings would be necessary” because Rodriguez “was doing well.”
He also twice was involved in civil domestic cases. The court records show that in two cases between 2009 to 2014, Rodriguez failed to attend four times for Focus on Children classes. The local court orders all parents filing for divorce or custody of their children to take such courses, according to the court’s website. The program “provides parents with information about how to cooperatively parent after separation or divorce,” the website states.
In his political blog in 2018, Rodriguez wrote that he moved to Ontario about three years earlier because of “a bad affordable housing crisis in the Treasure Valley.”
“After making it out of homelessness into a rented trailer in Ontario, I dug deep to find the reason that lead [sic] me to rock bottom,” Rodriguez said in post.
He got involved in local affairs, joining Friends of the Aquatic Center, which was focused on reopening Ontario’s long-closed public pool.
Rodriguez is the chair of the Ontario City Council’s Diversity Advisory Committee and serves on its Parks and Recreation and Marijuana Ad Hoc committees, according to Brown.
In July 2019, he applied for and became a volunteer certified ombudsman in Oregon’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman program, where he advocates for vulnerable adults in long-term care settings, said Fred Steele, executive director.
Steele said Rodriguez is an active volunteer ombudsman and hasn’t been the subject of any complaints.
Rodriguez’s current legal troubles started when the victim, who had dated Rodriguez, went to Oregon State Police to complain about his conduct, who then referred her to Ontario city officials. Brown said the city in turn referred her to the Malheur County Sheriff’s Department to ensure the victim “got a fair hearing or investigation.”
He noted that the victim lives outside the city.
“Even if it was in our jurisdiction, we would have handed it over anyway to the sheriff's department so that, you know — we would just want to make sure everybody gets a fair hearing,” he said.
Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe confirmed last week there is an investigation of Rodriguez but wouldn’t elaborate.
Meantime, the victim sought protection from the Malheur County Circuit Court, submitting a lengthy filing to support her request for a restraining order. Circuit Judge Erin Landis approved the order on June 4, concluding that Rodriguez was a “credible threat.”
Brown said he told Ontario Mayor Riley Hill about the restraining order after Rodriguez posted the documents on his Facebook page on Tuesday, June 9. Rodriguez has since deleted the documents.
In an interview last week, Hill said he doesn’t “really know anything about it” and that he hasn’t spoken to Rodriguez, but his advice to him would be to “just stay cool.”
On Wednesday, June 10, Rodriguez texted Brown about the restraining order, asking if he needed to be aware of anything regarding his position as a city councilor, to which Brown replied, “I don’t think so.”
Rodriguez wrote the city manager that it was an “unfounded protection order” and, “You can’t even imagine the accusations, in all of it even includes claims I threatened to kill her ex or something. This is beyond crazy.”
In the texts, Rodriguez alleged that he saw the victim and an ex-boyfriend at his home, and “they drove off when I approached.”
“And this morning when I finally came across the advice that I should file a police report, I called some officers out here and they came and while filing report with me, they witnessed her first hand driving by staring,” Rodriguez said in the text.
The circumstances have put Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero and his officers in the middle.
The victim recounted in her court filing remarks she attributed to Rodriguez that Ontario police officers don’t respect him, called him an “[expletive] from California” and said Romero was “racist against [Rodriguez’s] type of Mexican.”
In an interview, Romero said he was confused by the statements if they were made by Rodriguez.
Romero said his relationship with Rodriguez is “the same as any other elected official,” as he said when he started as police chief, he made clear his preference to have “professional, limited interaction” with city officials.
“I certainly don't know where I fit into all of this, or why I'm even brought into it,” said Romero.
Romero said both of his parents are from Mexico, and he identifies as a Hispanic American. He said he has no idea what Rodriguez would’ve meant by “his type of Mexican.”
“I didn't know there was different types of Mexicans,” said Romero. “I'm at a loss for words with that one. I don't know. I couldn't even — I'm not even going to try to even rationalize that one. Unless he’s referring to Mexicans of different geographical areas, I guess, but I don’t know.”
Responding to the claim his officers don’t respect him, Romero said he’s not heard that.
“That's very disheartening to hear, especially if that's the case, why no one would have approached me and said, ‘Hey, chief, your police officers don't respect you,’” said Romero.
In her court filing, the victim recounted an episode in February, when Rodriguez was stopped by an Ontario police officer while she was a passenger. She said Rodriguez “started telling the officer about hanging out with the mayor and Cliff Bentz, then offered up a coin saying it will get him out of trouble – no ticket issued.”
However, Romero said the department doesn’t have what is referred to as a challenge coin – a commemorative coin issued by government agencies and shared with others. Romero said his agency shares such a coin with the Ontario Fire Department.
The coins are “typically collectibles,” Romero said, that are sometimes exchanged between officers at conferences.
“I've never heard, or, you know, would have ever interpreted a challenge coin as a get out of jail free pass, as they say,” he said.
If Rodriguez presented one to a police officer, Romero said it would “absolutely not” make him immune to law enforcement.
“The only value those things carry is sentimental value to those that collect them,” said Romero.
Last week, one of the victim’s employees who had dated her, emailed a complaint to Brown on Sunday, June 14, asking the city to investigate Rodriguez. Jerry Ward wrote in the email, shared with the Enterprise, that Rodriguez has “made public threats to my wellbeing, employment, and my family.”
“I have legitimate fear for my safety,” Ward wrote. “This fear is because of a direct threat from Alfredo Rodriguez. Please take this complaint with all seriousness.”
Ward said Rodriguez began dating the victim shortly after he did, and after he arranged to move his belongings out of the victim’s home in September 2019, he arrived to find Rodriguez standing in the driveway “patting his knife” and staring him down.
“A couple of times” when Ward was driving to his residence in Payette, Idaho, he said, Rodriguez’s van “swerved into” him.
Ward said in the email that he couldn’t go to the Ontario Police Department because Rodriguez “has a close relationship to many officers in its employ.”
He wrote that he was sharing his concerns with the sheriff’s department.
Brown said he received the email from Ward on Sunday, June 14. Brown cited Ward’s statement in his email that he has been in contact with the sheriff’s department, which Brown said “is where he should go if he has a criminal complaint.”
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