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By Aaron J. Montes/KTEP News
The Village of Vinton Council allowed Municipal Judge Roger Rodriguez’s appointment to expire in December, parting ways with the private attorney who former DA Yvonne Rosales called a “legal advisor.”
Rodriguez, who held the position for 14 years, appeared at the village’s Jan. 17 council meeting and asked to be given the opportunity “to continue to serve this community.” Vinton is a town of about 2,700 people in Northwest El Paso County.
His appearance during the public comment portion of the meeting could be the first time Rodriguez talked publicly about his relationship with Rosales and his role with families of people killed in a 2019 mass shooting. He made claims to the council that have been contradicted by repeated court testimony in 2022.
Rodriguez told the council he was a victim of misinformation and at one point appeared to compare his plight to the persecution suffered by Jesus Christ.
He said there were “a lot of lies flying around, a lot of fake news” about him. He said he had wanted to call a press conference.
“I was asked by some of the agencies based out of Washington, D.C., and they said ‘sir, please don’t.’”
Rodriguez did not name the agencies.
He also told the council he filed two federal complaints and three state complaints but did not provide details.
In his comments before the council, Rodriguez said he had not worked for Rosales, who resigned in December as she faced a petition to remove her from office. Records from courts and state agencies show that Rodriguez has represented Rosales in legal proceedings, and a former prosecutor under Rosales described him as her “legal advisor” while testifying under oath at a September hearing.
“I’m not here to defend the district attorney, the former district attorney. That’s not my job. Why was I brought into this? People were mistakenly believing that I was her personal attorney. I was not,” Rodriguez said. “I was never an employee and never connected to the Walmart case.”
Relatives of Alexander Hoffmann, a man killed in the Walmart attack, accused Rodriguez of harassing and threatening them. Alexander Hoffmann’s son, Thomas, testified under oath in court about the alleged threats and said Rodriguez told the family he was working on behalf of the DA’s office.
Court records show that Thomas Hoffmann recorded conversations with Rodriguez in which the municipal judge falsely claimed that he might be appointed to preside over the trial of the man accused in the mass shooting that killed 23 people.
Rodriguez told the council that experts had found that 40% of the recordings had been altered, but he provided no evidence to support the claim. At a hearing last fall, a witness hired by the District Attorney’s Office before Rosales’ resignation said he found some flaws in the recordings, but the judge ruled his testimony inadmissible.
Rodriguez did not tell the council that he, alongside Rosales, spoke to the families of the Walmart victims after a July court hearing. Numerous witnesses have testified in court proceedings that Rosales allowed him to attend the meeting with several families.
In his plea to the Vinton Village Council, Rodriguez talked about the persecution of Jesus Christ “with lies” and said his situation was similar.
“I have never spoken anything but the truth,” he said.
Rodriguez spoke for a second time during the Jan. 17 meeting, just prior to the council voting on an agenda item to begin the search for a new municipal judge.
“I want to confirm my interest in continuing to serve this community,” Rodriguez said. “This would be my 15th year to serve and it has always been an honor.”
Four council members then voted to proceed with soliciting a request for quotes to search for candidates. One council member, Santos Lucero, abstained.
The council had voted unanimously at their Dec. 6 meeting not to retain Rodriguez as the municipal judge, a position that primarily hears traffic cases.
Andrea Carrillo, Vinton’s administrator, confirmed to KTEP News the municipal judge position is vacant.
This story was jointly produced by KTEP News and El Paso Matters.