- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A federal judge on Tuesday denied a motion for a new trial sought by a former northern New Mexico sheriff convicted in road rage case.

After a lengthy hearing, U.S. District Judge James Browning ruled a lawyer for former Rio Arriba County Sheriff Thomas Rodella had presented no new evidence. Browning ordered a sentencing hearing to continue as scheduled.

Rodella’s attorney Robert Gorence was seeking to introduce an expert witness to attack a prosecutor’s cross-examination of Rodella’s son, Thomas Rodella Jr., over the son’s mental health and memory.

The former sheriff is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday on his Sept. 26 convictions for brandishing a firearm and depriving a motorist of his rights during a March traffic stop.

The elder Rodella faces a mandatory seven years in prison on the firearm count and up to 10 additional years on the civil rights count.

At issue were the VA health records of Thomas Rodella Jr., who testified under cross-examination that he was taking several psychotropic drugs and has PTSD and memory problems.

Prosecutors previously dropped charges against the son in the same case, saying he might lack the cognitive ability to form intent. The younger Rodella received a head injury while serving with the New Mexico National Guard in Kosovo.

Gorence said federal prosecutor Tara Neda failed to give him the VA health records. Gorence wanted to bring an expert to testify about how Neda’s cross-examination tainted the case.

Neda should have disclosed the records “rather than use them in an ambush,” Gorence said Tuesday.

But Neda said she gave the records to the younger Rodella’s lawyer and Gorence could have gotten them from the VA. She called the move for a new trial a “last-minute attempt” to stall the sentencing.

“It’s meritless on its face,” Neda said.

Thomas Rodella, who is in federal custody, sat quietly in a red jumpsuit while lawyers argued the case. The former lawman periodically waved to family members and whispered.

Gorence said he plans to appeal the case.

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Follow Russell Contreras at http://twitter.com/russcontreras

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